Last week, I wrote a column about how I would like Rock Falls’ two mayoral candidates to discuss bigger issues – for instance, possible consolidation of services with the city of Sterling.
Sterling has made some offers to join forces. But I pointed out that Rock Falls has rebuffed Sterling.
The column didn’t sit well with Sterling Mayor Skip Lee, a retired Rock Falls High School teacher.
“I don’t normally comment on what the Gazette prints, but today an article printed something which was totally wrong,” Lee wrote on Sauk Valley Media’s Facebook page. “[Rock Falls] Mayor [David] Blanton, in the almost 2 years I have been mayor of Sterling, has made many efforts and been very responsive to talking to the city of Sterling about ways we can work together.
“He is not now nor has he ever ‘rebuffed’ Sterling in these efforts. Has the progress been as rapid as we would both like? No, but consolidation of services is a complex process in order to make sure we ‘get it right,’” the mayor wrote.
I’m glad to hear the two mayors are talking – something we have reported before. If something comes of it, the mayors should get a lot of credit. In my column, though, I was referring to the record so far.
A couple of years ago, Whiteside County and the city contributed to a study to consolidate 911 services. A consultant presented a report showing that the county’s police departments could save millions over the long run by joining their dispatch divisions. (This has been done in Lee County since the 1990s.)
Sterling, as a result, pushed consolidation. Rock Falls rejected it.
No less an official than Glen Kuhlemier, a Rock Falls alderman and former mayor, said he believed such a consolidation would be an “attempt to delete the identity of this community.”
On the issue of consolidation of the fire departments, the two cities have made some progress in recent years. For instance, Rock Falls Deputy Fire Chief Gary Cook is the interim chief of the Sterling Fire Department.
Now, Sterling is looking for still more consolidation of administrative positions in the fire departments. But Rock Falls is hesitant. Rock Falls City Administrator Robbin Blackert recently said no further administrative consolidation would happen until Rock Falls Chief J.W. Larson retires.
Why wait if consolidation is a good idea? Perhaps the solution would be to make Larson the chief of the united department.
In his Facebook message, Lee had some advice for Sauk Valley Media.
“A mayoral election is too important an event to waste time looking for discord when none exists,” he wrote. “Instead, I would urge the Gazette to spend its time examining the real issues and differences between the candidates for mayor of Rock Falls.”
I agree with the mayor that we shouldn’t waste time looking for nonexistent discord. At the same time, we cannot ignore it where it exists.
I, too, am all for peace and love. In that spirit, government agencies should reject ancient rivalries and turf-protecting tendencies and look for ways to join forces to save taxpayers’ money.
Doing so would result in less discord.
David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.