You know there’s trouble when the accountant pulls out the good ol’ can-kicking metaphor. “We’ve been kicking the can down the road and now it’s stuck in a ditch,” said Wenatchee Finance Director Deanne McDaniel. Well, not exactly. It’s more like we had a party, drank the can dry, and now we wonder why we’re thirsty. The empty can won’t satisfy.
This is more than verbal games over a sparse budget. It involves public safety and the fundamental duties of city government. The Wenatchee Fire Department needs a new fire engine, and preferably two. The current equipment is ancient, often broken and nearing the end. The city once prudently set aside money on a regular basis in anticipation of this need. Fire engines are not inexpensive. Two could run to $1 million. But, sadly, the savings were spent elsewhere, partly for a near-bankrupt ice arena. There’s nothing left in the can.
The city is now wisely searching for ways to finance a new engine, and perhaps a new ladder truck. Mayor Frank Kuntz vows to “make this happen.” It may have to raid another city fund and repay it over time from fire department appropriations. That is sad, but probably necessary. The city needs an adequately equipped fire department, and can’t delay action again.
That this financial juggling is necessary is a sad reminder of the price of self-indulgence. Shortsighted decisions lead to empty cans, and there soon comes a time when kicking them won’t do any good.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.