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A good deal

Local editorials

Shuffling city departments solves problems without breaking the bank

A proposal to shuffle Medford city departments to give emergency dispatchers the space they need is a textbook example of how governments should operate in tough economic times ' get the biggest bang you can for the bucks you have.

The city's plans initially called for building a new dispatch center to house Central Communication, known as CCOM. But the architect's &

36;1.8 million proposal was much more than the &

36;1 million city officials had planned to spend.

So they looked at their options and came up with a plan: move the Parks and Recreation Department from the Lausmann Annex to the Santo Community Center on Columbus Avenue. CCOM would then take over the 3,100 square feet Parks and Recreation now occupies on the annex's second floor.

The Santo Center is a good choice for the parks department, making it easier to find and more customer-friendly. In addition, the site is just across McAndrews Road from the city shops, where parks equipment is stored.

The one wrinkle in the plan is that remodeling the Santo Center to accommodate the department will take a year, and CCOM can't wait that long.

— Dispatchers are crammed into less than 500 square feet of space in City Hall, a building that could survive an earthquake but would not be usable after one had occurred. The Lausmann Annex was designed to be usable in the aftermath of a quake ' essential for a public safety function such as emergency dispatch.

So the parks department will have to move twice ' once into vacant space in City Hall, then again to Santo Center when remodeling there is completed. It's not an ideal situation, but it solves the immediate problem.

The real benefit of all of this is the price tag: &

36;750,000 in all, 25 percent less than the &

36;100,000 the city was prepared to spend on a new dispatch center.

The proposal goes before the City Council at its noon study session Thursday. The council should give it swift approval.

At the same time, council members shouldn't be too quick to accept Police Chief Eric Mellgren's estimate that the annex space should be adequate for CCOM for 10 years, depending on growth. It seems to us that 3,100 square feet should serve the department for considerably longer than that.

Despite that minor concern, this proposal is a sizable step in the direction of using existing resources rather than constructing a new building. And that direction is one that governments must get used to taking if they want to convince the public that its money is being spent wisely.