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    If acknowledging a problem is the first step in fixing it, Fort Wayne’s fire department is on the right track in recruiting minority firefighters.
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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
An A10 Thunderbolt II is refueled off the back of a KC 135 R Stratotanker during a fall drill by the 122nd Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard. The air wing’s fate remains uncertain as we prepare to flip the calendar to 2013.
Editorials

Much still up in the air

With one week left in the year, local residents saw government officials bring closure to some issues and make progress on others while still leaving some residents with uncertainty.

Answers

•Emergency dispatch center. City and county officials have reached agreement on moving the 911 dispatch center from the basement to the sixth floor of the Rousseau Centre (formerly the City-County Building).

With new radio, dispatching and accompanying computers scheduled to go online in 2013, officials were unsure whether all the new equipment would fit in the basement, especially when public safety officials will be using the present equipment while installing and testing the new system.

Though county commissioners had discussed alternatives – expanding the basement, temporarily moving to the former Public Safety Academy, buying or leasing another building – the board that oversees the combined dispatch center recommended the sixth floor. The county commissioners on Friday gave their approval.

Credit Fire Chief Amy Biggs, also the chair of the Consolidated Communications Partnership, for proposing the move that will keep law enforcement personnel in the same building. The move also leaves room for growth if the center expands to regional dispatching in the future.

•Legacy projects: The City Council approved about $20 million in projects to be financed by the Legacy Fund, which holds the revenue from the city’s lease and sale of its former electric utility to I&M.

Progress

•Air National Guard Base. Congress’ latest defense bill keeps the 122nd Fighter Wing and its 20 A-10 aircraft at the local base after the Air Force backed off a plan for cuts and realignment. The proposed change in mission to reconnaissance aircraft would have resulted in the loss of about 150 local jobs.

Though local officials argued that the Air National Guard performs its mission at a fraction of the cost of the regular Air Force, widespread defense cuts are inevitable in the future. It wasn’t clear whether President Obama will approve the bill because it includes $1.7 billion more than Obama requested.

•VA Medical Center. With the status of the local Veterans Administration repeatedly changing, an American Legion task force offered a welcome, more independent review of the center. The task force issued seven recommendations last week with a focus on improving communication between the center and the area’s veterans as well as the general public.

The medical center has already launched some of the proposals, including a hotline for patients and potential patients as well as intentions for a letter to area veterans updating VA Medical Center plans.

Still waiting

•St. Joseph Township. Residents of the township who live outside city limits are experiencing déjÀ vu – they are questioning what will happen with their fire service – just as they were this time last year.

Last week, the township advisory board voted to contract with a different volunteer fire service provider – a new, non-profit organization headed by Township Trustee Richard Uhrick instead of the long-standing volunteer organization.

The move is the latest in a series of contentious disagreements between township government leaders and the fire chief, who is selected not by the township but by a vote of the volunteers. This will allow the trustee to name the chief. The big question: Will the new volunteer organization have enough qualified firefighters to answer calls when its contract starts Jan. 1?

Uhrick is expected to name a qualified chief this week, one whom officials hope will draw back to the township some of the former volunteers who resigned.

“This is more of a reorganization than a brand-new plan,” said Peter Mallers, the township’s attorney.

But some volunteers have questioned whether the new organization will be ready. If the new department falls short, the long-standing practice of mutual aid would allow dispatchers to send firefighters from Fort Wayne and other nearby departments.

•Fiscal cliff. Will workers who draw paychecks see their Social Security payroll tax rise by two percentage points in eight days? Will automatic cuts in defense spending and other programs go into effect? Will rich Americans continue to enjoy the unwise tax breaks adopted during the George W. Bush presidency?

The answers are uncertain after House Republicans couldn’t muster enough votes to extend the current tax cuts for all Americans making less than $1 million a year.

The deadline is Dec. 31.

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