Forum editorial: Moorhead writes off volunteers
Moorhead's decision to outsource its sandbag operations to a day labor company seems to dishonor the spirit of volunteerism that has distinguished Fargo-Moorhead's successful flood-fighting campaigns. It suggests Moorhead leaders don't have much ...
Moorhead's decision to outsource its sandbag operations to a day labor company seems to dishonor the spirit of volunteerism that has distinguished Fargo-Moorhead's successful flood-fighting campaigns. It suggests Moorhead leaders don't have much faith in their own residents' willingness to volunteer. It undermines the personal investment in the flood fight that actually strengthens a community's resolve in the face of natural disaster.
City officials contend that they are not abandoning the volunteer effort. They say the city will need volunteers later in the flood campaign. Volunteers will remain a critical force in the effort once sandbags have been filled and transported to warehouses by hired workers. The paid labor will save volunteers from a tough and dirty job, according to Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger.
Really? Since when did F-M flood volunteers shirk from the tough and dirty jobs associated with flood work? The record shows they eagerly and energetically stepped up to the toughest and dirtiest jobs, and did them quite well, sometimes in terrible weather.
And if Moorhead expects volunteers to step up after paying some flood workers for specific kinds of work, the city might be disappointed. Potential volunteers would be justified in asking: If they paid those guys, why not pay us?
The pay option seems especially iffy for Moorhead because the city is confronting budget challenges that could result in privatizing golf courses, eliminating support for youth and senior programs, neglecting parks and even cutting into basic services. Yet, the city apparently can come up with $160,000 to pay sandbag workers. Added to other anticipated flood expenses, the city is looking at an $800,000 bill.
The money will come from city reserves that total about $6 million. The city also expects to be reimbursed for flood expenses if the state receives a flood disaster declaration, which is likely.
Like all that is not real money? Like all that does not have an impact, however small, on city reserves and the state's red-ink balance sheet?
Money questions aside, it's the apparent disdain for the community-building principle of volunteerism that ought to rile residents of Moorhead. At a time when even the metro Chamber of Commerce is asking members to free up workers to volunteer in the preliminary flood campaign, Moorhead's pay-for-work scheme undermines the call for volunteers.
It might be nice that some people in need of work get temporary work on Moorhead's sandbag machines. But it's not worth the potential damage to Moorhead's better civic instincts - to volunteer when the need is clear.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.