Day two of budget retreat focuses on safety

EFFINGHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Presentations continued Thursday by City of Savannah bureau chiefs at the annual budget retreat at the New Ebenezer Retreat Center in Effingham County.

The proposed $364 million budget for 2016 covers a lot of city services, from public safety to infrastructure.

From the Bureau of Leisure Services, to the police and fire departments, a lot of information was broken down for city council members regarding how each department will be moving forward next year, and what resources might be needed in the future.

Public safety enhancements headline the 2016 budget, as the budget planners and city manager look to bolster safety efforts for citizens, while doing so with a balanced $364 million budget. City leaders also point out that the budget was formulated without a property tax increase, maintaining the lowest millage rate in the city since 1987.

The City of Savannah's Research and Budget Director explains why those bureau presentations are so significant in the presentation of the proposed budget.

"This gives the council as well as the public a chance to interact directly with those subject matter experts, that know those day to day operations, can hear directly first-hand knowledge from the mayor and aldermen on what their strategic priorities are, and what they actually expect them to focus on in the next coming year with those spending dollars that we're appropriating," said Research and Budget Director Melissa Carter.

The police and fire department presentations gave us a look at not only what's in the immediate future, but also plans ahead for next year.

Savannah Fire Chief Charles Middleton was the first of the two departments to present to city council members at the annual budget retreat Thursday.

Chief Middleton spoke about the need for additional fire stations, particularly on the south and west end of the county to expand services and maintain response times. The chief also outlined a program Savannah citizens can expect to see starting up at the beginning of next year, which involves the community in emergency response.

"CERT teams our teams that are actually neighborhood teams, neighborhood based teams. And what they do is, say we have an emergency, down tree down, flooding, whatever. And emergency responders can't get in there. These people are going to be trained to be our eyes and ears and tell us the immediate dangers. They can possibly be trained in first aid," said Chief Middleton.

Savannah Police Chief Jack Lumpkin announced the next stage in the "Stop the Gun Violence" initiative, which begins in just a few weeks with a group of officers going to Birmingham, Alabama to shadow the department as they do call-ins on paroled individuals they believe to be involved in violent crime.

"What we're hoping to see, really, is the mechanics of the operation. How they have done it, what they have learned. And to converse with peers within that community," said Chief Lumpkin.

A group of Savannah Chatham Metro Police officers will be going to Birmingham at the beginning of December, then implement their own call in process the middle of next month.

There was a possibility the annual budget retreat for city council could go until Friday, but it appears they will get through all of the items Thursday.

Public hearings for your feedback will be held next Tuesday on the 24th, and Dec. 10th.

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