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At some point, cities should get serious



Grand Coulee’s mayor is right when he says in a front-page article this week (“New twist could bring towns’ functions together”) that his city has “a lot to offer” other municipalities in considering how the four in the Grand Coulee Dam area might benefit by combining efforts.

That’s basically because working together is usually a better way to solve problems among people of good will: problems such as how to pay for police services, firefighting and ambulance service; water, sewer and street maintenance, and the education of our children.

That last one was resolved by local voters with vision four decades ago, when they realized the task could be accomplished cheaper and better by combining two local school districts.

Today, the idea of consolidating local towns and cities keeps popping up, whether by outright municipal merger or a more timid contractual arrangement for sharing of services.

The latter has been done in bits for decades, but sharing pieces of equipment, such as a street sweeper which comes to mind, still fails to fill the bill. Agreements have to be made and prices haggled for two cities to get together on anything. Grand Coulee and Electric City are still negotiating a contract for Electric City to buy Grand Coulee’s police services. And now Coulee Dam’s mayor, like one decades ago, recognizes the probable prudence of everybody pulling for same, shared goals.

A former mayor of Coulee Dam, the late Rod Hartman, long after he was out of office, once urged me to spur the chamber of commerce into facilitating more talks on consolidation. (There had been a study in the early 1990s.) Hartman knew it would be hard, but he could see the benefits for everyone coming together.

Now, the community is at a point where many elected leaders suspect the same thing, but there is no fundamental push to get them moving. They’re like a youngish man nearing middle age who is still content to just talk to that woman he’s attracted to next door and occasionally borrow a cup of sugar or shovel her sidewalk.

That’s a comfortable arrangement, but it will never bear fruit.

If voters ever want to see the progeny that could be born from a productive union, they’ll need to nag their leaders like a mother hoping for grandchildren and a future for her own line.

“Just marry the girl!” they’ll have to insist. If they don’t, no good will be produced on its own.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

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