Emergency decisions

Let’s begin with the key point: It’s preposterous for Van Buren County to do without a 911 service.

We regret all the things which have brought us to this point. We are wretchedly disappointed that the 911 funding, which was supposed to all 911 to operate as a self-funded entity, isn’t there. The state legislature either didn’t see this coming or saw it coming and decided to not act. While we certainly hope this will change (Arkansas, we understand, has the lowest 911 phone-fee in the nation), that the state will pass legislation which will allow the phone fees to be able to cover 911, it doesn’t change where we’re at. Today, now, the county’s 911 system is not able to support itself on phone fees.

That’s it, that’s how it is. And we return to our original point, that it’s preposterous for the county to do without a 911 system. We, on one hand, work to attract businesses to the county, we work to attract visitors, we work - end of the day - to get some money flowing through here. But just on the corporate attraction: How are you expected to attract corporate interest, ultimately corporate investment, without a viable 911 system? (The question begs the answer: Obviously, you can’t.)

Now take it a step further: We had a massive storm this past Sunday night. Calls about flooding and worse coming in. Obviously 911 was in the mix, obviously 911 was calling out to dispatch, obviously, it made a difference.

And let’s be fair, nobody - at least nobody serious - is talking about outright shutting down 911. But there is that “How are we going to fund it?” question. And that question has been ringing since late last year. Now, as the planning for next year’s budget begins, comes all those pesky details, and with that the “Gee, I don’t know …” statements.

And here the problem: “I don’t know” implies doubt, implies that a “no” may (may) be in there somewhere. Others have to plan, that a “no” may (may) be in there somewhere, and that a decision process is underway is passed on to employees, as in “Use up your comp time, you may not have it next year.” (Quotation for effect.) That’s not, end of the day, what you say to keep your employees satisfied, and while nobody guarantees happiness at our work, we can at least hope for something like satisfaction - especially when the creek’s rising and you got to make a call.

We understand there’s grudges at play here. That some are unhappy that it’s reached this point, that the way 911 was lined out in this county was not the way they would like it. And sure, they have a point. We don’t like, for that matter, that 911 needs Clinton to chip in on the funding, and Clinton’s had no essential say to date on 911 operations. We get that. We even get, as we get well into the weeds on this thing, that some have their own ideas on equipment and protocols which are not in alignment with current thinking. Sure, fine.

We’ll deal with that. We’ll deal with these attendant issues next step, on down the line. Do it this way, do it some other way, all good, fine, but that’s a longer range issue. We have, essentially, a bunker up there in Fairfield Bay, we have a trained and dedicated staff on hand 24/7, and we have … funding issues.

Clinton needs to chip in its share, period. It’s too late in the process (a process which, with the benefit of hindsight, could have been undertaken differently) to do anything but pay its 19 percent, it’s $46,000. Next step, if the energy’s there, look at this, look at that, make some changes, fine. Certainly encourage whatever forces at play to get the funding back to a self-sustaining level with phone fees (certainly the energy exists to lobby for that step).

Anything else, anything less, is preposterous.

Luke 10: 38-42

At the Home of Martha and Mary

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”