Thursday, August 7, 2008

Efficient, Safe City Operations

City Government has accomplished a lot of good work this year. We’ve taken a look at ways to save taxpayer’s money and perform city work more efficiently. This work continues. This week at the Committee of the Whole meeting we will be discussing hiring George Sheets, former Beaver Dam Fire Chief, to help take a look at reorganizing the Fire Department to include EMS services. The Fire Department has asked for this reorganization and they have asked for a full-time, professional chief to lead the combined Fire Department / Emergency Management Services. The goal is to also do this more efficiently and save taxpayer’s money. We currently spend over $210,000 annually on EMS services, and this money can be reallocated to provide EMS service in-house. George is educated and experienced in Fire Department / EMS operations. In addition to being a chief in several large communities, he has a masters degree in Organizational Management. We have the opportunity to use his skills and experience to help our Fire Department become more efficient and improve the quality of both fire service and EMS. George is not interested in being hired into this position, but will act solely as a consultant.

I am in the process of setting up a committee to review the options and develop a Fire Chief Job description that encompasses the expertise needed to lead the department forward. George will act as a consultant to this committee helping them set the standards for Fire and EMS services. Bill Breunig will chair this committee. Bill is a Captain in the Fire Department and the Eastern Columbia County Judge. He has been on the Columbus Fire Department since 1984 and is respected by the firefighters and community. His leadership will ensure the Fire Department’s voice and Community’s needs are kept front and center. The committee will include representatives from the Community, Hospital, School, Rural Group, Fire Department, Police & Fire Commission, and City Council. Throughout this entire process we will ensure the safety of our citizens is enhanced by this reorganization, never compromised.

The Council is also reviewing studies of the City Hall roof. Several weeks ago we went upstairs and took a look at the roofing structure and learned that the beams that hold the roof in place are failing and need to be replaced. We have earmarked $300,000 in the Capital Improvement Plan to perform this work. City Hall is a grand old building, the cornerstone of our City. This building has served as the center of our government since 1892 and there is no reason that it cannot continue in this function for many more years to come. It needs a new roof… it’s that simple. We will talk about options available and begin the project to maintain this landmark property. It is much less expensive to do the maintenance now rather than be put in a position of having to fund repairs when the roof fails.

Last week I attended the Mayor’s Innovation Projected hosted by Madison Mayor, Dave Cieslewicz and the University of Wisconsin. It was wonderful. About 60 people attended this conference, mostly mayors from across the county and the state. We talked about issues that affect every city large and small. Issues boil down to discussion of money and people… how do we provide the best services that we can for our citizens, while watching the budget and keeping taxes affordable. What decisions can we make that will enhance quality of life for the citizens. Great conversations, great information on how other cities have solved their problems. We all learn from each other’s experiences and ideas.

Have a great weekend… summer is certainly in full force. The flower gardens around the city are spectacular with the purple cone flowers and roses in full bloom. It is a great time to take a walk and enjoy this wonderful city.