Editorials

Don't rush to judgment about splitting district

Any situation can benefit from a fresh perspective now and then. Nothing would ever improve without the occasional review.

However, we must caution against haste. Not every change is for the better.

That's what has us worried about the Benton Franklin Health District. At Monday's Benton County board meeting, Commissioner Max Benitz Jr. suggested it may be time for the two counties to form separate health districts.

Well, it's a thought.

The health district is already in transition, with Dr. Larry Jecha retiring as the department's head and the director of human services stepping down at the same time.

It's probably a good time to reassess the district's structure, function, strengths and weaknesses. Most likely there are savings to be had and efficiencies to be gained. Every organization has room for improvement.

But going their separate ways? It is a thought, but probably not a very good one. Especially since it seems more of a reaction to a minor dispute than to careful consideration.

At last week's health district board meeting, a motion by Benitz to sell the district's old Kennewick office on Canal Drive failed to garner a second.

Franklin County Commissioner Brad Peck later said the space ought to be considered for other health district needs.

That's probably not the only source of disagreement, but talk of a split is counterproductive. Why would the counties even consider a dissolution, unless it was a last-ditch effort?

Peck pointed out that the demographics of Franklin County make the health district eligible for grant money that benefits both counties.

If they were separate entities, Benton County likely wouldn't qualify for that money on its own. Financially, this could well be a losing situation for Benton County.

When couples find themselves in minor disagreements, the solution is usually better communication, not divorce court.

At a time when some local agencies are reaping benefits from moving toward cooperation and consolidating services, it seems like a step in the opposite direction to sever ties that are already binding.

Our local fire districts are a good example of how working together increases efficiencies, decreases costs and better serves the community.

By cooperating with each other, they have been able to increase their purchasing power and come to each other's aid.

That come-together mindset holds more promise for the future of the Tri-Cities than going it alone.

The bi-county health district was formed when Benton and Franklin counties were smaller. The suggestion has been made that they may have outgrown each other.

We have to think that in this economic climate, in which nearly every government agency is being forced to scale back, it would be easier for a larger organization to absorb cuts.

We're open to ideas. We like the idea of challenging the status quo. But this decision is too important to be made in haste or influenced by emotions.

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