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By Joe Wessels · April 29th, 2009 · Wessels


Lockland police officer Brandon Gehring shouldn’t be in the hospital right now. He was simply trying to do his job.

Unfortunately, thanks to elected officials so damn proud of their ability not to spend money, Gehring wasn’t equipped with a two-way radio that would allow communication with officers in another department a few miles away.

This is a test. Are elected officials listening?

This isn’t just about the safety of our police officers and firefighters. It’s also about the safety of every citizen.

While Gehring sits in a hospital recuperating slowly but surely, we should take his injuries as our lesson on how to fix the problem before something like this happens again — maybe with even a worse result. The local ham radio club is better suited to deal with this type of emergency than our local police officers. That’s unacceptable and needs to change.

AirCare, the helicopter operated by University Hospital, has the ability to communicate on multiple frequencies so it can talk to rescue personal on the ground enroute, no matter where they’re going. It’s been that way at least since the mid-1990s. The technology is available.

I thought one of the many lessons of Sept. 11, 2001 was the need to make such inter-department communication possible. So why didn’t it happen this time? Where did all the money spent on “homeland security” go after 9/11?

As usual, the culprits are politicians who don’t serve citizens’ needs. I thought our government was meant to be run by people, like you and me, elected to positions to serve other people instead of their careers.

* * * * *

I took advantage of the recent nice weather and headed south to Lake Cumberland and Burnside, Ky.

A friend and I enjoyed the utter silence of the Kentucky woods, cool breezes and beautiful vistas.

Anyone who’s been there lately has heard about the lowered water levels thanks to a “seepage problem” in the Wolf Creek Dam, the nearly 300-foot-high and mile-long structure that plugged up the Cumberland River to create the lake and popular tourist destination.

In October 2007, Popular Mechanics called the dam’s impending failure — prior to an emergency lowering of the water level and more than $300 million in emergency repairs — one of “five disasters coming soon.” The story was published in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

The Army Corps of Engineers estimates 100 people would be killed and damages would hit $3 billion if the dam fails. Plus a lot of drunk houseboaters from Greater Cincinnati would likely be taken on a ride they’d never forget, leading to appearances on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Lake Cumberland’s water level, 40 feet below normal, could stay that way for many more years to come. It’s disheartening to see all the exposed rock and grassy fields around the lake with boat slips now laying on them.

The lower water level, the Army Corps of Engineers said, is expected to cause a 50 percent drop in visitors, translating into a $23.6 million loss in direct sales, $8.5 million in personal income and $38.4 million in trip spending within a 30-mile radius.

We headed south to Tennessee, specifically a town called Rugby, founded in 1880 as an “experimental Utopian colony,” whatever the hell that means, by an English writer. About two hours south of the lake, it’s retained its English charm.

Thinking Queen of England and her polite nature, it was odd running into a woman using a large format camera photographing the town’s picturesque chapel.

“Where are you from?” she asked.

“Cincinnati,” I said.

“Oh,” she said, then paused a bit. “Yanks.”

I suggested that locals still didn’t talk that way.

“Well, you’re fine. Until after dark,” she said, adding that locals don’t like how we Northerners come down and “use their lake” and stuff.

But what about the economic problems that the lake’s lowering has caused? No response. “They certainly will take our money,” I said.

CONTACT JOE WESSELS: joe@joewessels.net



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