September Editorial Winner

Getting back on track is a good start

MIKE MCCORMICK, The Shawnee News-Star

Any serious discussions concerning the possible merger of county and city 911 emergency centers seems to have stalled a bit.
It's really important, especially on local issues, to keep momentum and positive efforts headed in the right and same direction.
Last January, a group of 10 people sat down around a table at the Pottawatomie County commissioners' office. Purpose of that meeting was aimed at how to begin serious efforts to merge the two 911 centers currently serving Pottawatomie County.
There was a lot of encouragement expressed by most of those attending that meeting spearheaded by District 1 County Commissioner Melissa Dennis and Shawnee Mayor Wes Mainord.
In that meeting, there were even some specific timelines mentioned and agreed upon by those in attendance. The meeting preceded a Feb. 12 county ballot question on increasing the 911 tariff on county landlines by so percent.
County residents were being asked to increase the tariff to provide more funding for the county's 911 emergency center. The voters rejected the proposal and it failed miserably during an extremely light turnout.
Since that time, there have been only a few meetings and the enthusiasm by some seems to have waned dramatically.
County and city officials took a trip to Muskogee to see how operations there were successfully merged. Another trip was planned for Lawton, but reportedly none of those representing the county's interests went.
It's understandable the devastation caused by the May tornadoes and storms has taken a precedent on both the part of Shawnee and county officials.
However, even prior to the storms, it seemed there wasn't a sense of urgency on this issue anymore on the part of some.
The county commissioners have had to provide the county's 911 center with about $75,000 in funding for operations, apparently because of the failure of the tariff increase passing.
Merging the 911 systems of the city of Shawnee and the county makes a lot of sense. There will be some hurdles and challenges to overcome for sure.
However, it's time city and county officials get back on track and really set the tone for this to happen. Setting specific timelines and adhering to them will help with this process.
Then staying focused and working through the challenges will be the key. It will save money in the long run, and make 911 operations more efficient in the long term.
It can and should be done.

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