Sunday, March 31, 2013

Back Story: Knowing what's good for us

The proverbial stepping-stone

In August of 2006, I wrote a story for the Yellow Springs News under the headline, "Dispatchers bring caring, local knowledge to work." In Yellow Springs, at least, there is nothing new under the sun. Back then, we were talking about getting rid of our local dispatchers and moving to the Xenia Dispatch system in anticipation of a changeover to a countywide dispatch system that none of the local police chiefs could agree on.

The issues we were discussing seven years ago are the same ones we are talking about now: familiarity with the citizens and the terrain; support for the officers in the field, especially late at night; having someone to watch prisoners who are brought in to the station when no one else is around; and perhaps most importantly, caring about their fellow residents. Back in 2006, I wrote extensively on these issues, including anecdotes of how our local dispatchers and officers went above and beyond the call of duty simply because they cared.

And then there is this... In the 2006 interview of longtime dispatcher, Larry Campbell, whose voice still responds whenever I have occasion to call the non-emergency number, he posited the following: "Once the dispatch goes, where does it stop? Soon we'll have the Sheriff's Department patrolling our streets."

Larry's is the voice of the code red alerts. Larry calls me when chickens are spotted running loose in the village, because I am known as "the chicken guy." Larry answers when I call to report that I've found a ditched bike in my neighborhood. Larry answered when I looked out the window and spotted some teens stealing my son's bicycle from in front of our house - he dispatched Officer Nipper and we had the bike back in less than 15 minutes and the little thieves' mothers were called to the scene of the crime.

Another longtime dispatcher, Randall Newsome, answered when I called on a weekend to report that water was bubbling up from the street in front of my neighbor's house. "That's not good," he said calmly and with good humor. "Sounds like we've got a water main problem. I'll get someone over there right away."

What would life in Yellow Springs be like if we had to rely on Xenia Dispatch? I had a taste of that a couple years ago. My two sisters and their husbands were in town for our daughter's wedding, staying at the Grinnell Mill Bed & Breakfast. Late at night, after the wedding, my elderly brother-in-law fell down the long, steep staircase to the second level and was laying bleeding and unconscious on the stairs. I dialed 911 on my cell phone and asked them to send a Miami Township Fire & Rescue ambulance to Grinnell Mill. The dispatcher asked me for the street address. I told her I didn't know the address - I wasn't even sure if it had one.

"It's the Grinnell Mill," I said. "Everyone knows it. Please just call MTFR and tell them Grinnell Mill. They know where it is."

"I'm sorry," she said without a hint of empathy. "I can't send an ambulance if I don't know the street address."

Eventually, we got MTFR to respond and my brother-in-law was treated at the scene and turned out to be okay. But, had he been seriously injured, the delay could have been critical.

If you have a police emergency in Yellow Springs, you are best advised to call the police non-emergency number: 767-7206. I keep it in my cell phone. You can also find it on the cover of the red book. When you call the non-emergency number, you will get the local dispatcher. If you call 911, you get Xenia Dispatch. Unfortunately, the only way to get MTFR dispatched is by calling 911.

I have lived and/or worked in the village for 13 years. During that time, we have had at least four village managers. They average about 3 years in tenure. As far as I recall, with the exception of the current one, they have all lived in town.

In the village/city manager track, small towns like ours are resume builders - instituted a public art policy; replaced the trees on Main Street; saved money by getting rid of the local police dispatch. We are a stepping stone to something bigger and better. We can't expect to bring a stranger in from out of town and have them love it here so much that they decide to stay. They have their minds made up that they will be moving on before they even get here.

In the couple years I worked in Yellow Springs, before I moved here, I thought I understood this place. Once we bought a house and moved in, I found it was a whole other ballgame. Our current village manager has been in her position for about a year and has yet to move to town. From what I understand, she has no intention of moving here, either. Does that tell you something? Yet, she has no qualms about telling us what's best for us. If you purport to know what's good for Yellow Springers, shouldn't you be one of them?

The issue is this: Do we care enough about having someone down at the Bryan Center 24/7 to answer our calls and know where we are and what our concerns are to pay for it, or do we want to save some money and lose yet another benchmark in the quality of life we have traditionally enjoyed in our town?


Note: I received the following comment via email:

Thank you for the new piece, so so so true. Except for one instance: Laura is pretty far along in the designing of her house in Birch III. She does intend to move to the village. Rumors fly, and no one wants to hear anything even ok (much less good) about her.

1 comment:

June said...

Thank you for this thoughtfully written commentary. Your examples echo all I've been thinking and feeling over the last year as one by one the little home-grown and personal aspects of YS fall by the wayside, victims of saving efforts, efficiency rampages, and needless tidying up. For what it costs to live here, nicely summed up in the Dayton Daily News today, we should expect and receive more than what looks like one size fits all expediency. Again, thanks.