Active Alerts

 

Team assigned to rebuild Chatham County police reports good momentum

Members of the task force assigned to ready Chatham County for the return of a county police department report they’re making significant progress.

 

In an update Friday to the Chatham County Commission, staffers on the county’s police department transition team said they’ve already received more than 100 applications for open positions in the Chatham County Police Department, and calls for bids to supply needed equipment have been issued. In addition, design of the police department’s new seal and patches is complete and the search for a new chief is under way.

The commission itself completed another task Friday, with a unanimous vote to revise the budget for police services, create new technician posts and purchase of a new phone system and radios for the county police department.

“Simply put, our primary goals as a transition team were to ensure public safety and maintain public confidence in our ability to deliver what we set out to do,” said Kelvin Lewis, the county official leading the team. “We have an extremely dynamic team and huge support from management and leadership. … We’ve also had meetings with the city of Savannah in this room to create and promote the spirit of cooperativeness.”

Lewis said the team has determined that the initial staffing roster for the Chatham County Police Department should incorporate 130 positions, of which 116 would be sworn officers. All would report to the chief, who in turn would report to the Chatham County manager.

Assistant County Manager Linda Cramer said Friday that although the hope is to maintain costs in the current fiscal year at the $17.9 million approved for police service by the county commission earlier this year, the county will still have to make payments to the city of Savannah through the remaining life of the merged police department and cover the start-up costs necessary to set up the county department.

After the first year, however, costs for the county police department could drop to between $14.5 million and $15 million annually, Cramer said.

Meanwhile, Human Resources Director Carolyn Smalls reported that Chatham County is actively recruiting for six classes of employees. The jobs have been posted on the county’s website and police association sites, she said, and interested parties are encouraged to apply.

The county has extended offers to the 29 former county police officers currently working for the joint city-county department, Smalls said, and if they choose to return they’ll be provided their current rank and pay.

The search firm Stanton Chase is on the hunt for the position of chief, Smalls added. A posting can be found on the website of the Georgia Chiefs of Police through Sept. 18.

Cramer said all these efforts are being conducted to prepare the county police force by the Feb. 1, 2018, deadline set by the city when it voted July 21 to notify the county of its intent to dissolve the joint department.

Harkening back to a tennis allegory he used earlier in the week, Commission Chairman Al Scott said Friday that the dissolution of the Savannah-Chatham police department isn’t a total certainty because the county commission and Savannah City Council haven’t yet “met at the net and shook hands.” But the chairman said it will be up to Savannah officials to preserve the joint department if they determine that’s the choice they want to make.

“We have been notified by the city that they no longer wish to remain in the merger,” Scott said. “As of Feb. 1, 2018, they will no longer police the unincorporated area of Chatham County. I’m just acting in response to that because we have to be responsible and we have to put a plan in place. If the city decides they want to rescind that, they want to stay merged and they so indicate, I personally think it’s in the best interest of the city and I would certainly advise you to entertain that. That’s basically where we’re at.”

The chairman added that despite the city’s move to end the joint police department, there is no animosity between the two local governments.

In other business, the commission:

• Heard a presentation from Dr. Mark Johnson of Gateway Behavioral Health Services on the feasibility of building a behavioral health crisis center in Chatham County.

• Approved at an annual cost of $29,000 the purchase of the Munis Disaster Recovery Service, which allows for the county to cut checks to its employees from outside the community if necessary.

• Authorized the Chairman of the Chatham County Commission to execute agreements with the city of Savannah for right-of-entry associated with Phase 2A of the Truman Linear Trail project, and an agreement with O.C. Welch Golf Properties to relocate more than 20 trees from the Magnolia Park neighborhood to the Bacon Park Golf Course in advance of a drainage improvement project for the trail.

• Approved a change order to an existing contract for audit services for the Chatham County Hospital Authority. The addition of the $85,000 is meant to cover unforeseen costs for the work, Scott said.

ON THE WEB

View the transition team’s presentation on the Chatham County Police Department online at savannahnow.com

More

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 2:08pm

Police investigating string of entering auto cases on Tybee Island

The Tybee Island Police Department took several reports this morning of entering autos, according to the department’s Facebook page.

Read more