County Police Department workshop held

County Police Department workshop held

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - A County Commission workshop was held Tuesday in order to get a clearer picture on what setting up a County Police Department would look like.

On Friday, the commission voted 5-4 to terminate all negotiations and agreements with the
City of Savannah in regards to the merged police department.

County Manager Lee Smith said Friday that the commission needed to meet immediately in order to go over start-up costs and needs.

According to the presentation presented Tuesday, the county hopes to have its police department staffed and running by July 1, 2016. The department would consist of 115 employees, 95 of them as sworn officers.

The police chief selection process would begin in December of 2015 and the hiring of officers would take place in May of 2016.

However, the county says it will hire an interim chief immediately, so that person can provide help during the start-up process. 

According to the numbers presented on Tuesday, the first year cost of the department would be $18.4 million dollars. However, the second year and moving forward it would cost the county $11.3 million dollars a year.

These numbers are subject to change depending on need. Currently, the county pays the city over $14.5 million dollars a year for police services, so there would be a savings of over $3.3 million after the first year.

In order to cover the upfront costs, the county would dip into its Special Service District tax, which is only paid for by unincorporated residents. According to the county manager, as of June 30, 2015 there was $7.8 million dollars in that fund. However, some money must stay in the fund per month.

"I am in the belief that you would need a tax increase for a two year duration," said Al Scott, Chairman of the County Commission.

"The numbers now look even a little better than I initially thought. I knew that was a smoke screen the other day that there would be a tax increase. There will be no tax increase. Now, we see that not only will there not be a tax increase, but if you stick around a few years and we may have a tax cut," said Dean Kicklighter, District 7.

The current agreement runs out the end of March 2016, and the current start-up date is July 2016 for the county.

During the months where there is no agreement or department, the county says it will either pay SCMPD or other agencies to help patrol the unincorporated areas.

Lastly, the chairman says he has the power to veto the 5-4 vote to demerge, a decision he says he will make soon.

"I have five days to determine if I will veto this and I wanted them to have this appreciation before I make my decision," said Scott. "I have to take everyone in consideration. I can't just focus in and say, 'this helps my district.' My district encompasses everybody. I was elected by 100 percent of the county."

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