Once again, the city of Norwalk is looking to spend both more and less than it should.
For the bargain sum of $10,000, the city has contracted with the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association (OFCA) to tell us whether we need a new fire station.
Fire Chief Doug Colletta has said we need a new station. Chief Robert Bores before him said we need a new station. These are both good men and between them, they have decades upon decades of experience in Norwalk. If they say we need a new fire station, they are in the best position to know and we are inclined to take their word for it.
However, the fire chiefs obviously have their own non-public-safety-related reasons for building a new station. Furthermore, any suggestion that the department would be more effective at putting out fires with a new station has been conspicuously absent from these discussions.
The department had to buy a shorter truck, but the department seems perfectly able to fulfill its duties, even so handicapped.
Of course, it is better to err on the side of giving the firemen more than they need rather than less. But when $3.8 million is on the line, it is perfectly reasonable to seek an outside, objective opinion.
An objective opinion is precisely not what it seems the city is likely to get from the OFCA, whose dues are paid by the fire chiefs. The OFCA has an interest of its own in telling the city what the fire chiefs want to hear and the fire chiefs have an interest in building the new building.
Certainly, $10,000 for such a study is pretty cheap, and we can only assume that it is frugality that has led the city in this direction. If we were cynical, we might suggest that such a cheap study was selected because the city doesn't actually want an objective opinion, it just wants to look like it wants an objective opinion.
If we're going to base this decision on the recommendation of an organization like the OFCA, we might as well save our 10 grand and take Colletta and Bores' word for it. If we want an objective opinion, we should shell out enough money to get one. It may be more expensive in the short run, but if it saves us spending an unnecessary $3.8 million, it's money well spent. Plus, it's better than making a $3.8 million building into a $3,810,000 building for no substantive reason at all.