Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Cost of "Free" on a Beautiful Day at the Open House

Hi All,

It was a beautiful, sunny, cool and colorful October afternoon at the Bloomfield Township Open House.  People of all ages, but mostly families with small children, were excited to see and ride in fire trucks, police cars and dump trucks.  There was even a helicopter on site. The Township personnel had the entire Telegraph Road government complex filled with information tables about everything from fire safety to water meters; give-a-way items for kids such as water bottles, balloons, pens, fire hats and hard hats; and food tables to keep everyone happy.  Kids and adults had the chance to hold the fire hose, perform CPR on a dummy, get fingerprinted, apply for a passport or even adopt an animal from the shelter.  You can tell that the entire Township worked hard to present a fun afternoon with the goal of fire safety and promotion of all that the Township has to offer.  They did a nice job.  It was "free".

Now, this is where the "watchdog" in me comes out.  How much did the "free" open house event cost the Township taxpayer and was the cost in this economy worth it?  Just because the Township boasts a AAA rating, shouldn't mean an open checkbook.  Last year this event cost:  $11,000.00 if I am recalling the figures correctly.  The cost of overtime is probably the majority of the cost.  What will the final "free" cost be this year?  Don't forget the hours spent organizing this event during "regular hours" probably won't be figured in the cost. 

I would argue that Township residents don't have the same financial resources as in past years.  While our hearts may always want to have the best and be the best...the time has come when our pocketbooks will need to do the talking/voting now and in the future on millage issues. It's time for the Township to reflect on some of their programs and make cuts.

There are other ways that families can learn about the Township.  The Township promotes many of the Township departments via special cable programs. These programs also cost money to produce. You can watch them on Comcast Cable 15 on your TV.  You can also get Video on Demand by going to the Township website and viewing programs on your computer if you missed the TV show. All Township residents can learn a lot just by visiting the official website regularly.  That's the key word:  regularly.  Many people miss events and public meetings because they didn't know about them.  The Township can do a better job promoting events on their website home page.  POSTING information is the "free" category I like. 

I don't think it is necessary to spend over ten thousand dollars for an afternoon to promote the entire Township.  In fact, I'm not sure how many of those in attendance actually live in the Township.  I did recognize many Township employees, CERT volunteers, Township elected officials and appointees.

The original purpose 25 years ago for an open house was to promote Fire Safety Week. When did the event change to this expensive and all inclusive format?   Whatever happened to field trips at the elementary level to the fire station?  Don't the police and fire departments have programs at the schools to help promote fire safety? Do "Sparky" and the K-9 dogs visit schools?  Should there be an open house at the Township?  Yes, all young kids like to climb on special vehicles and see firemen and policemen, but limit the scope and the costs.  My opinion.


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