“After further review … ”
That familiar phrase, commonly associated with professional football, is uttered most often by referees who change a call on the field after reviewing instant replay.
We’d like to apply the term to a recent editorial on the Southeast Arizona Communications center.
Tuesday’s opinion piece criticized the regional dispatch center for its potential cost to taxpayers and the lack of participation by four of the eight police departments in Cochise County.
The editorial prompted an immediate response from local law enforcement and representatives of SEACOM, who disputed the opinion and offered convincing arguments. Sierra Vista City Manager Chuck Potucek addressed the editorial at Tuesday’s Sierra Vista Spotlight Breakfast, stating that the cooperative venture is saving taxpayers money and that he expects it to become a major benefit to the community, not a “nightmare,” as portrayed in the piece.
Errors in the editorial were, in part, the result of a lack of information. For example, funding to pay a $250,000 maintenance contract for state-of-the-art equipment at the center has been allocated in the state budget, which wasn’t known before the editorial was published. Reluctance to join SEACOM on the part of the Willcox, Benson and Bisbee police departments is in part the result of state-funded contracts to operate their 9-1-1 centers, which would be sacrificed if they joined the regional dispatch center at this time. Their reasoning was detailed in a Sunday, Aug. 11, news article by Herald/Review reporter Lyda Longa.
The bottom line?
Despite its tumultuous start, SEACOM is positioned to improve law enforcement and emergency services in Cochise County. It expects to accomplish that mission by coordinating communication and the response of police, sheriff’s deputies and emergency personnel.
Furthermore, as Potucek indicated, it will do so at less cost to taxpayers by eliminating the need for individual agencies to maintain and operate their own dispatch services. Sierra Vista police and the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office are now sharing costs that each agency was paying on its own, and costs will continue to go down if and when more agencies join the venture.
As a newspaper, and specifically on this opinion page, we bear a responsibility to spur debate, raise issues and get discussions started to serve the best interests of our readers and this community.
This time, that responsibility requires us to admit that we got it wrong.