January 29, 2014

Brentwood Should Join Consolidated 9-1-1 System

The heavily fragmented government system in Saint Louis County leads to higher costs on taxpayers, but NOT quite as high as one might assume. That is because the many cities and other governments within Saint Louis County do a better job of cooperating than people may realize. To give one example, almost every municipality contracts with Saint Louis County for some types of public works inspections. Here is the matrix of city governments that contract with the county for various things.

Another long-time example of shared services is emergency dispatch. We wrote a number of blog posts about the issue several years ago. Few cities have operated their own emergency call centers, which is a good thing. There are obvious economies of scale in sharing resources here, which is why so many cities have done it.

Brentwood is a particularly wealthy city due to the high level of shopping within the city, the high assessed valuation combined with limited government-service needs of Brentwood Forest, and more. So, it has been able to do something on its own that other cities have not been able to afford, such as operating its own emergency dispatch. There is nothing automatically wrong with that, but now officials are thinking about trying to save money by participating in the East Central Dispatch Service 9-1-1 center, which serves many other cities in mid-Saint Louis County.

I think this is a no-brainer “yes” decision for Brentwood. Even if the short-term savings are small, the long-term benefits of being in the larger system would be noticeable, primarily, greater access to a larger pool of resources (technology, employees, back-up systems, etc). Phone calls do not take longer to get to Olivette than they take to get to Brentwood. There are certain things cities do NOT have to do themselves, and emergency dispatch is at the top of the list.

Let’s be honest here. Opposition to this is about protecting public sector jobs in Brentwood, not about public safety. Brentwood should participate in the East Central Dispatch Service.

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