Being a local official isn’t easy. There are times when balancing what’s good, and not so good, for the people and the community can be frustrating.
Two recent situations come to mind.
In East Greenville, officials probably intended to punish the E-Z Shoppe by not allowing them to sell borough trash bags. But the decision will probably have an unintended effect on residents who seek to purchase their bags in a location most convenient to them.
Officials, frustrated over attempts to get store management to respond to requests to “clean-up” the property, informed the public that trash bags would no longer be able to be purchased at the store.
Offering the borough-mandated trash bags for sale at the convenience store may have inspired patrons to purchase something else while they were there but, if the business was accepting credit cards for the purchase of trash bags, it was costing them money in the form of credit card fees. So not selling the bags may end up being a loss the store can absorb but an inconvenience that residents might not want.
If the borough was selling the bags to the store at a reduced cost as an incentive to sell the bags, then it may end up being an effective incentive for store management to respond to officials’ requests.
While the dispute goes on, the residents end up being the ones inconvenienced.
In New Hanover Township, where officials are trying to combine fire-fighting services, another pot has boiled over.
In 2010 a report was delivered to officials by an independent consulting service hired to conduct an assessment of the township’s fire protection needs. The report contained 21 recommendations of which most have been implemented by the township’s two fire companies; Sassamansville and New Hanover.
However, there was one sticking point. One of the recommendations called on the supervisors to reorganize the two fire departments into a single township-wide fire and rescue system under a new name. Sassamansville and New Hanover would still retain their “station” names but become one emergency service provider under the proposal. It was a suggestion that many Sassamansville Fire Company members were not ready to endorse.
While the study reported the positives of such a move, it failed to report on the negatives of such an initiative and more importantly, how supervisors should review and address them.
Comparing and understanding the people who make up most of the volunteer fire service members in our communities is not something officials will ever be able to learn out of a book or from the pen of an official study. Loyalty to your “house” is an important part of the firefighter culture.
Communication, understanding and education are the most important items, and least reported, in many commissioned documents. Just because it was bought and paid for doesn’t automatically make the conclusions relevant in all cases.
The urge to act can cause more frustration than the end result is worth. Patience and the willingness to listen and learn, on both sides, is a better way to get the job done. Don’t replace frustration with a bad decision.
Officials need to make tough decisions but they needn’t render them tough to make. Learn everything you possibly can and how it will affect everybody in your community before you cast your vote – a daunting task and it isn’t easy.