Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Money Changes Everything

It was not long ago that Webb County and the City of Laredo were at odds with each other over the proposed site of a new international bridge.  Tensions flared and ultimately nothing was accomplished.  Relations improved after we had a changing of the political guards; Cooperation and civility were restored, but not for long.

Bad blood has once again surfaced - this time over the issue of fire protection for county residents.  Those living past the city limits have relied on the services of the Laredo Fire Department, whether its EMS transport to the hospital or fire suppression from the bomberos.  But come October, the city is not going to renew the contract with Webb County, leaving county to fend for itself.  Naturally county officials feel slighted.

Everyone had a say in the matter:  fire department union members cited safety issues, both for themselves and for the citizens of Laredo when coverage for the city was interrupted; city officials noted the cost of providing the services to the county; and commissioners said that contract negotiations weren't brought up until this year.  It all came down to money.  Via the Laredo Times ( Zach Lindsey):
From the city's perspective, the county has "been getting a $37 million fire department at a fraction of the cost,"
The county was paying the city $600,000 a year for its services.  But at a time when budgets are tight, that wasn't going to cut it. 
Now getting back to improved relations, communication was something that was sacrificed for some reason or another.  City officials say that discussions started last year, and county says that they just got word of this this year, but nobody seems to offer up any proof of when exactly the official exchange originated.
"I think the county has known about this for a long time.  This is not something recent.  There has been ongoing discussions even since last year."
(emphasis mine)  I can understand where all parties are coming from but to let something as serious as emergency services reach this point borders on douchebaggery.  (I don't know if that's a word)  Commissioners Court is now scrambling to put together a fire department after knowing that this would happen since last year.  But I'm not sure if they're totally at fault when the city manager says "I think" in reference to the county's knowledge of the situation.  And a union fire official asserted that a pending lawsuit could've allowed them to abandon their responsibility of responding to emergencies, even if the contract was renewed. 

Up to now, we don't know who knew what, and when.  It's all being presented to us as a tale of "he said, she said."  Here I thought we had gotten a collection of political adults but all I see is a bunch of jerks.  Heaven help the residents of Webb County.

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