The discussion over rolling blackouts that have impacted our fire department for more than a decade has reached a fever pitch again following the recent death of a city man after a fire at his home on Myrtle Street. But as usual, there are few workable solutions being put forward to end the practice.

As a homeowner in the city of New Bedford, I wish we could have a fire station in every neighborhood that was staffed 24/7. I don't like rolling blackouts but I also have no idea where the money would come from to fix the situation. It appears that no one else does, either. As I stated yesterday, the taxpayer just can't handle any more.

Veteran City Councilor Brian Gomes, who chairs the council's public safety committee, tells me blackouts are unacceptable and that property owners are paying a lot of taxes and deserve full fire protection. I agree. I also believe we need to spend more on education but I can't tell you where the money for that will come from, either.

The key to all of this is to find new revenue sources for the city. In fairness, the Mitchell Administration and the administrations prior to this one have attempted to attract new investments. It's a slow process often hampered by a number of things outside of our immediate control, things like the national economy and the lack of available space that is developable in New Bedford.

Many are looking towards expected revenue from pot sales that could begin in the spring but that is not going to save the day. Any money derived from the sale of marijuana would be offset by the rising cost of employee benefits and pensions, not to mention unfunded state and federal mandates. We need to continue to diversify our local economy. The administration has tried with some success but the work has to continue.

Years ago, Councilor Gomes proposed a multi-purpose stadium for the Hicks-Logan neighborhood that could be used for sporting events as well as concerts and other things. The stadium concept would serve to revitalize a blighted neighborhood while attracting business into the city. With the development of the riverwalk and other improvements in that area located right off Route 195, Gomes' proposal is as timely as ever.

While a stadium at Hicks-Logan won't address our immediate needs, it could certainly play a role in providing tax relief for beleaguered property owners in the future and should be given serious consideration.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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