Thoughts on cops, museums and IOUs
May 18, 2011 - As I listened to the Oxford Village Council's budget discussion last week, I couldn't help but wonder why they kept debating a lot of nickel-and-dime stuff that really wasn't going to make a huge difference in the long run.
Finally, Councilman Tony Albensi said something that smacked of common sense.
Being it was at a government meeting, I didn't recognize it, so I hit rewind, listened again and there it was – a logical suggestion. Albensi wants the village to explore the possibility of outsourcing its police and dispatch services (see Page B-1).
Based on the projected village police budget for 2011-12 and the options presented by the Oakland County Sheriff's Department, the village could save somewhere in the neighborhood of $200,000 to $300,000 annually by contracting with the county.
Council owes it to its constituents to seriously explore this very viable option.
Council owes it to its constituents to place this issue on the ballot and let the voters finally have a real say as to who polices the community and how much they pay for it.
You really want to know what village residents want?
Stop making assumptions. Stop talking to the same small group of like-minded people.
Give village voters something the council didn't give them in December 1999 – a choice.
Government officials who truly want what's best for the people needn't fear the ballot box.
Once again, I have to say I'm staunchly opposed to the idea of selling the Northeast Oakland Historical Museum building to a private party just because the village needs to raise some extra cash (see Page B-5).
If council decides to put it to a vote of the people, that's fine with me, but this village resident will fight it in his column. Allow me to quote from a column I penned in January 2008, the last time this issue reared its ugly head –
Moving the historical museum out of that beautiful old bank and into those crappy, drab township offices would be a huge mistake.
Housing a historical museum in a historic building is a natural fit. Walking into that bank building feels like taking a trip back in time. It sets the mood for what you're about to see and learn. Old places, with their unique architecture and musty smells, help connect us with distant times and forgotten ways.
That's why Henry Ford moved all those old buildings, like Thomas Edison's laboratory, to Greenfield Village.
Sure, the great inventor's chemistry equipment and strange gadgets could be displayed in any modern building behind glass cases, but would they have the same impact as being able to view them while standing in the same spot as Edison himself? I don't think so.
Viewing Oxford's history in the town's old bank is very apropos for it was this financial institution that helped build the town we live in.
This is where the working man's earnings were squirreled away, entrepreneurs found capital for their ventures and families got the money to build or buy that first home.
From the mortgage on the family farm to little Timmy's first savings account started with silver dollars from grandma, the community bank is a driving force in a small town's history.
We need to look beyond our billfolds and keep the historical museum exactly where it is.
Instead of worrying about how we can slide a new business inside the museum building, why don't we concentrate on filling up the myriad of vacancies that currently exist throughout downtown Oxford such as the old Starbucks space, the recently-vacated Cottage Inn space, the former antique mall (that's a big one), the building that used to house A Familiar Taste, those empty spaces behind the Ox Bar & Grill . . . shall I go on?
Or how about trying to find someone to purchase and develop those three vacant lots along E. Burdick St. that the DDA's been trying to sell for many, many moons?
There certainly are a lot of holes to plug downtown.
When all of those are filled and businesses are banging down our door looking for more space, then we can debate selling the museum building.
I genuinely felt bad for Ron Davis, director of the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department.
It seems the parks department owes the village about $7,000 for back phone bills. To be fair, the village hadn't charged the parks department for their portion of the phone bill since July 2009. Financial management at its finest . . .
Anyway, as Davis and the council discussed the matter last week, I couldn't help but wonder why Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth didn't simply offer to loan him the money to pay off the village? He's a friend, right?
Better still, Davis should just slip an I.O.U. for $7,000 into the village's cash drawer. That's a standard municipal practice – just ask any auditor.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.