The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

July 10, 2013

Our View: Hope for regional approach

— The successful efforts to consolidate the county’s public safety agencies and Jasper County Emergency Services Board give us real hope for the future of regional cooperation.

The election of a new sheriff in Jasper County certainly ended the stalemate between that department and the Jasper County Commission, but we sense some other walls have been knocked down as well.

Sheriff Randee Kaiser is working with other law enforcement departments to move forward in the development of a countywide public safety radio system. The Jasper County Emergency Services Board has been dispatching for the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office and is now dispatching 911 emergency calls for Carthage and Carl Junction.

The problem we face in this county is that different agencies communicate on different radio systems. It affected communication in the aftermath of the May 2011 tornado and most recently it slowed communication in the search for a 14-year-old Webb City youth who drowned in a pond on May 29.

Webb City police Chief Carl Francis explains the obvious: “With a countywide system, there can be a ‘talk group’ where everyone, regardless of agency, can communicate with each other.”

New radio equipment will be delivered in 30 to 60 days to the sheriff’s department and will “talk” to Webb City and Carthage. The new system will also include links to make sure a connection can be made to the Joplin Police Department. Work is still under way to consolidate the Joplin and the county dispatch centers.

It all makes perfect sense to us. Unfortunately, territorial thinking has prevailed for many, many years. That type of culture is not undone overnight.

But we see a real opportunity here to move toward more efficient government, which should mean better services for the taxpaying public and perhaps even reduced costs.

It’s the type of cooperation that must be in place before this county can consider growing into other partnerships, such as a shared medical examiner or a regional jail system.

We’re hopeful for the first time in a long time about efforts to regionalize.

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