Need some reasons
The Winthrop Town Council will likely have an item on the agenda of its Jan. 21 meeting to discuss acquiring GPS tracking and information-generating devices for the vehicles used by the police and public works departments.
As suggested by council member Vern Herrst, who requested the agenda item, the devices could be used to track the mileage, performance and position of town vehicles.
The point of the proposal is murky for several reasons: There doesn’t seem to be any objective evidence that it’s urgently necessary, so what’s the motive? It’s unclear who would monitor the collected information and how it would be used. And the potential cost isn’t insignificant.
Herrst said his research indicated that the devices could be installed on six vehicles at an operating cost of about $30 per month per vehicle, or more than $2,000 a year — and that doesn’t count personnel costs.
For a council that counts and pinches its pennies, that seems like a big expense for — what?
Maybe the staff and council discussion next week will illuminate the issue. If there are cost-effective efficiencies to be had, it would be useful to hear what they are.
At last week’s council meeting, where the proposal surfaced, town Marshal Rikki Schwab said that the devices represented “micro-managing” that seems unnecessary. How the town’s law enforcement officers spend time in their vehicles would likely not have any relationship to statistics about where the vehicles are or how long they are in any one place, she said.
What she characterized as “monitoring and questioning” would not sit well with the town’s officers, Schwab said.
Before the council pursues the idea, the public needs to hear how the devices would improve the town’s operations without adding a costly, unproductive layer of oversight.
After 50 years waiting for a new Okanogan County comprehensive plan to be developed adopted, a few more weeks won’t hurt — especially where public involvement is concerned.
After adopting the plan just before Christmas, the county commissioners have agreed to “reconsider” the plan at a Feb. 2 meeting.
It is largely a formality, but the commissioners are responding to concerns that the Dec. 22 meeting to consider final action on the plan was inconvenient for a lot of residents because of the holidays. The commissioners want to ensure the public has full opportunity to participate, according to county Planning Director Perry Huston. “Everything adopted is still adopted, but the motion to reconsider puts the comp plan back in front of the commissioners,” Huston told News reporter Marcy Stamper.
Maybe it will only amount to window dressing and the comp plan will be adopted in the same form it was approved in December, but it’s a positive gesture from the commissioners to give the public the fullest possible access to the process. And let’s hope it’s not another 50 years before they get that opportunity again.
One of the things human beings spend a lot of time talking about is how to improve communications, which presumes that something wasn’t working in the first place. In the ongoing discussion about how communications worked, or did not, during the Carlton Complex fires last summer, state and local jurisdictions are pledging to do better in the future.
We are all summoning as much optimism as we can about that assurance.
After the emotion blows off, hindsight can be useful, but only if it’s used to assess and improve how agencies can communicate better in future disasters, rather than assigning blame or shifting responsibilities.
At a meeting last week of state and local officials, organized by state legislators Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen) and Joel Kretz (R-Wauconda), much was said about improved preparedness for “the next time” — and there will be one — different from, but possibly just as challenging as, the Carlton Complex fires and their aftermath. The tough task ahead will be to maintain momentum toward that goal as other issues demand everyone’s attention. As usual, it will be up to the people most affected to keep the pressure on.
— Don Nelson