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Moving quickly toward safety



Published: Thu, May 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Police cars and fire engines have sirens and flashing lights for a reason. We expect emergency vehicles to respond quickly when there is a fire, a robbery or an accident.

In Warren, there was a sense of urgency this spring as voters went to the polls to decide a 0.5 percent income tax issue. The money was slated to restore safety services in a city that was operating its fire department from one station and had more police cruisers parked than on the street.

Response: Voters responded with a strong affirmative vote on the tax issue and the city administration is responding quickly to the community's safety demands.

Already, two fire stations have been reopened, one on Atlantic Street N.E. and one on Parkman Road. The reopenings should allow residents on both the West and East sides of the city to rest a little easier.

Restoring Warren's safety forces to full manpower will take a while longer.

First, the city must offer those employees who were laid off the opportunity to return and give them time to do so. Some have found other jobs and have to give their employers proper notice.

Filling the spots that remain open after the recall has been completed will take much longer.

Civil service tests will have to be advertised and administered and new hires will have to undergo training. The earliest newly hired police officers could be on the street would be November.

The city administration, Police Chief John Mandopoulos and Fire Chief Jay Mulligan have reacted promptly and correctly to the challenge and opportunity confronting them.

Caution: An editorial, however, even one full of praise, must also contain at least one cautionary note. And here is this editorial's caution:

During the layoffs, some of the police officers and firefighters found jobs in other city departments. Self-sustaining departments such as water and wastewater treatment have their own income and were not subject to the same budgetary constraints as general fund departments such as police and fire.

We would hope that as those workers are shifted back to the safety forces, each department, regardless of its source of income, will take a hard look at whether that job must be filled. Every department in the city must look for ways to economize, and economizing at the municipal level means basically one thing -- trimming manpower.

Three years will roll by very quickly, and this tax will be back before the voters for renewal. If the taxpayers are not convinced that all of the city's departments are doing everything they can to save money, selling the tax a second time will be extremely difficult, if not impossible.




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