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OPINION - Missed opportunity

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) For months there have been talks between Rothschild and the Everest-Metro police commission about a merger. Rothschild, with a small 5-person police department, would be merged into the much larger Everest-Metro department. I’d thought this was a foregone conclusion. Rothschild’s village board had different ideas. They voted down the idea after a public hearing where many people spoke against the idea.

This is a setback for regionalization of services, which is critical to managing municipal costs and keeping property taxes down. Truth is, even the existence of Everest Metro PD is a potential stumbling block to a Wausau-Metro police force which could patrol from Brokaw to Kronenwetter.

There were two objections to the Rothschild deal. First was cost; the second was local control and community identity. Cost is always a legitimate concern. Rothschild would have paid an up-front investiture fee of about $1-million to join Everest-Metro. That’s the cost of buying into the things the Everest-Metro PD already owns, like its police station, squad cars and equipment. You can argue that the amount is too much… or that Rothschild simply isn’t interested in paying an entry fee when it already has its own police force. Those are legitimate issues. But they ignore that after joining Everest-Metro, Rothschild’s police budget would be lower. Paying more now to save money later is good deal, especially since the costs of running a smaller department are almost certainly going up.

Concerns about losing the city’s identity are strange. Most communities take their identities through their downtown or their schools. Rothschild doesn’t have a classic downtown, and it’s already part of a multi-municipality school district. The only thing that gives Rothschild its identity is the beautifully-renovated Rothschild Pavilion. Otherwise, I’d challenge anyone to show me exactly where Schofield ends and Rothschild begins. Community identity isn’t created by having your name on the side of a police car.

There are many areas for local communities to work together: police, fire, human resources, trash collection, code enforcement… all of it will happen someday as a matter of economics. I’m saddened that that day – and the savings that will come with it – is still off in the future.

Chris Conley
8.7.13 



Editor's note:  This blog contains a factual error that I'd like to correct. The cost of Rothschild buying into the Everest-Metro police department was overstated. The correct amount is $96,000 a year over a four year period. I apologize for the error.

-Conley