Cost cuttingFort Wayne Mayor dissolves joint homeland security department

Published 7 February 2012

After six years of operation, the joint Fort Wayne-Allen County Homeland Security Department has been dissolved; last week Tom Henry, the Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana sent a letter to county officials notifying them of the city’s plans to end its agreement to share in the costs of the local homeland security department

After six years of operation, the joint Fort Wayne-Allen County Homeland Security Department has been dissolved.

Last week Tom Henry, the Mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, sent a letter to county officials notifying them of the city’s plans to end its agreement to share in the costs of the local homeland security department.

Henry explained that the decision was made in an attempt to cut costs.

“While the past six years have been a valuable experiment, with the challenges of budget constraints, the city must work to find more effective service solutions for its residents,” Henry wrote.

The decision caught County Commissioner Nelson Peters off guard as he was under the impression that the agreement was working well for both parties.

“We certainly have gotten no feedback to the contrary,” Peters said.

The current director of the joint department, Bernie Beier, uncertain about his job, said that he had not received any warning from the mayor regarding his decision to end the agreement and that only a few weeks ago he had discussed the department’s location with the Mayor.

Mayor Henry said the city’s move would not alter the role of the local homeland security department or its staffing. More specifically the only thing to change about Beier’s job would be that he becomes an employee of the county with county benefits.

The joint agreement was initially signed in 2006, after several years of work between city and county officials. At the time, the arrangement was heralded as a model for the state as it helped to avoid conflicts between city and county authorities, political parties, and rural and urban areas.

State Senator Tom Wyss (R – Fort Wayne) said Mayor Henry’s decision makes him apprehensive about the future of the department as the arrangement was critical in minimizing disagreements.

“It avoided any of the political problems you could have,” Wyss said.

In defense of his actions, Mayor Henry said the joint homeland security department was made under special circumstances and was no longer necessary. Other counties in the state handle emergency management duties, so Allen County could simply take over like the others.

“No other city has a homeland security director,” Henry said. “The city is going to save money. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Henry was careful to note that he was willing to reimburse the county for any expenses it made for Fort Wayne as well as discussing the division of the department’s assets.

“For both of us, public safety is an absolute priority, but the duality of this position no longer serves the community in the most useful way,” he concluded.

The dissolution of the agreement will go into effect sixty days from 2 February, the day the letter was sent, the minimum notice required by the contract.

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