The ongoing debate in the tri-county area over reuse of the Clinton-Essex-Franklin Library System’s bookmobile reminds us of an old idiom: penny wise and pound foolish.
A loose interpretation of that phrase means that taking no action is unwise because doing something small now would prevent much more trouble later.
The Library System wants to give the bookmobile back to the counties that helped purchase it because it can no longer afford to operate it. It has offered the vehicle to emergency-services departments in the three counties to be used as a mobile emergency command center. It has been parked since the end of 2011 because of budget issues.
The idea is to convert the bus into a mobile command center that could be used to coordinate responses in various situations in the three-county area.
Grant money that each of the three counties receives from Homeland Security would help defray costs to convert the former rolling library into a high-tech command center.
Each county would have to pony-up about $1,500 a year for maintenance. It would be parked at the Franklin County Highway Department site in Malone.
Clinton County has agreed. Franklin and Essex counties have yet to make a commitment , needing more information, lawmakers say, before signing off on the project.
Fire departments in the North Country use a similar strategy, but on a much smaller scale, when dealing with emergency events in their respective areas. It’s called the incident-command system, where all emergency communication originates and orders to quell the emergency are given. It matters not who the emergency responders are, just that the incident commander communicates directions to all from one area onsite.
A similar system, on a much larger scale, is envisioned for the mobile command center.
Just remember recent events where such equipment could’ve been utilized. The Ice Storm of ‘98 quickly comes to mind. A large scale response was needed to evacuate residents, fix power lines, clear roads, help the many area farmers milk their cows, etc. The National Guard assisted, but coordinating such an emergency response takes time. And the first responders are local, not from around the state.
A command center was established at Clinton County Emergency Services, but it took time to get all the players in one room and get inter-agency communications working.
And last year’s tropical storm Irene is another example where a mobile communications center would’ve been utilized.
Lawmakers in Franklin and Essex counties need to think out of the box. And they need to answer this question: What’s the price of a human life?