Sebring Learns from Flint’s Mistakes
People from around the world looked on as Flint and its government officials bumbled over a catastrophic health issue. The Flint water crisis would become so serious it caused Governor Snyder to declare a state of emergency, and to turn to the federal government for help. Thankfully, Obama reacted swiftly and provided resources to alleviate a problem that had grown beyond peaceful containment.
Recently, Sebring Ohio also experienced a similar problem with lead contamination, creating to its own water crisis. City Manager Richard Giroux did not shuffle his feet and wait for it to blow over. Instead, he ran full sprint to find a solution and help reassure residents.
Putting Money where his Mouth Is
Rather than spend money on cleaning up belated delinquency like Governor Snyder did when he hired not one but two PR agencies, City Manager Richard Giroux spent his money on a solution for the problem at hand. He set good PR in motion by putting $70,000 where his mouth is.
That’s how much money the city spent so far on efforts to handle the high lead levels reported in a barely significant number of the 8,100 homes the city services. Rather than pay PR agency fees for damage control, the money went to purchasing bottled water and residential filters, paying employees, providing temporary phosphate treatments, testing lead levels in the water, and other related costs.
The government also awarded a grant of $404,885 to help the community recover from the water crisis. This illustrates a valuable lesson in not just public relations, but life in general: actions speak louder than words. It also illustrates another important concept that to achieve real success you’ve got to first get the ball rolling.
Above and Beyond
Free testing offered to residents who voiced concern about the quality of the water is what originally revealed that 47 percent of these tested homes showed higher lead levels than were allowed by the federal government.
Further investigation showed the majority of the lead seeping into the water supply came from older homes still fitted with lead pipes. The village plans to work on getting EPA approval for a long-term water treatment using phosphates, which should help lower the amount of lead coming in from older pipes.
Even though the water supply has now been declared safe, City Manager Richard Giroux still puts his all behind ensuring it stays that way and that nothing is missed. He wants residents to feel their concerns are heard and to know he’s doing all he can to resolve the issues.
Perhaps what is most remarkable in this scenario is despite the severity of the issue, no riots were staged and no one is protesting against the government. Why? – Because City Manager Richard Giroux took a proactive approach resolving the problem.
He also proved that even the worst potential PR scandal can be avoided; not by covering up or ignoring the situation, but by tackling it head on and reassuring the public your best efforts and resources are being provided. They will appreciate it.