Local Leaders Weigh-In on Consolidation
It's a growing trend: Combining government agencies and services to save money in this tough economy.
For years the possibility of combining the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff's Office has been discussed. The latest push for consolidation is through a legislation drafted by a local police union. Now local leaders are weighing in.
The Police Benevolent Association is pushing for a community commission to be formed to study both agencies. And then to either present a unification plan to voters in 2012 or to dismiss the idea. Supporters say it's about having an open mind. But others feel it's an unwarranted discussion that could waste a lot of time.
Alachua County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson said, "No one's ever hurt by having the discussion."
Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said, "It's been a while since it's been looked at at a community based level and so now's the time to take a fresh look and see what we find out."
Police Chief Tony Jones said, "My view on the discussion is why we're even having the discussion at all."
Chair Pinkoson and Sheriff Darnell said there is no downside in exploring the possibility of consolidation. But Chief Jones said although the commission would not cost additional tax dollars, the required efforts would take up a lot of time. And in some ways, time is money. Jones said, "One of the things we have to look at in doing this study is the extensive amount of time and that staff will have to devote toward preparing reports and so forth."
State Senator Steve Oelrich said at this point it's important to remember the question isn't whether or not to support consolidation.
He said, "I'm working with my colleagues to make sure that they're approved of just the study commission now...not the total implementation of consolidation."
Oelrich said although he supports consolidation, the study will determine definitively the pros and cons. He said, "Is it feasible? Does it make good use of the taxpayers dollar to do this? Does it make economic sense? Does it make efficiency sense?"
Jones said he believes the service level would decline for residents of Gainesville if there was a consolidation. But Darnell said it would likely improve service for everyone in the county. No matter which side you take, Oelrich says this is a predictor of the where government is going. He said, "What we're trying to do now in government, hopefully is to reinvent government to make it uh, leaner and meaner."
The City will hold a public meeting at City Hall on the 24th to discuss the issue. The Legislative Delegation will hold a public hearing on the 31st at the Thomas Center to determine whether the bill will go forward. Anyone who wants to speak to the delegation must contact Michelle Sherfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling her at 955-3083.
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