PSAC considers PR

The Public Safety and Advisory Committee met in Willow Springs last Monday night. The only item for action on the agenda was a discussion on improving public relations for the police and fire departments. Discussion ensued about the best way to engage the community in conversations about the departments. Two forms of public engagement were considered -- surveys and a community forum. 
 
The committee passed a motion to send surveys to businesses via the chamber of commerce. City Administrator Beverly Hicks provided a draft survey, and the motion passed with the understanding that questions about the fire department would be added. 
 
Regarding a community forum, the Willow Springs Police Department’s recent introduction of an MRAP to their fleet of vehicles was fresh in everyone’s mind. 
 
“We have to talk about the MRAP,” said committee chair Robert Hollis. “I’ve been bombarded with questions. The backlash that is out there is a real thing…The can’s open.”
 
Member Scott Williamson said he learned about the MRAP when it appeared on the front page of the News. 
 
“I think it would have been helpful for this committee to have been informed,” Williamson said. 
 
“We are trying to do the right thing,” Police Chief Wes Ellison responded. “We intentionally called [Howell County News Publisher] Amanda Mendez.”
 
“Our role is to advise, and we didn’t know about it until it was on the front page of the newspaper,” Williamson said.
 
Every change I make, I don’t need to bring to this committee,” Ellison responded. 
 
The idea put forward by Hollis for the community forum was to park the MRAP outside the venue so the public could see it in person and ask all their questions. 
 
“The culture changes the more we engage the people with the issues,” Hollis said. 
 
Howell County News will collaborate with the City of Willow Springs to host a community forum on public safety departments. The forum is tentatively scheduled for May 30. 
 
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