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Neighborhood watches honored

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ALBANY, Ga. -- The Dougherty County Commission and Albany City Commission issued a joint proclamation Monday honoring the work of local neighborhood watch groups for their efforts to improve the quality of life for residents of Albany and Dougherty County.

Started by Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes and Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard last year, the joint resolution is meant to give the volunteers a pat on the back for work done in area neighborhoods.

"These groups play a vital role in our community," Hayes said. "You supplement law enforcement and strive diligently to improve the quality of life of your community."

Howard told representative of the various neighborhood watch groups in attendance that their dedication to their own communities benefits the city and county as a whole.

"That's really what it's going to take," Howard said. "Individuals working together to eradicate drugs and crime. Regardless of the struggle, you all keep working to make this community a better place and you all are making a difference."

It has been said by those in local law enforcement that neighborhood watch groups are one of the best liaisons between the community and law enforcement; often helping serve as the eyes and ears of police in rural or underserved areas.

Melvin George, of the South Dougherty Community League, shared his appreciation to the commissioners.

"We really appreciate you and the city and county government for recognizing the work we're trying to do," George said.

In other business, the Dougherty County Commission voted 4-3 to deny a request from Chairman Bill Ashberry of the Dougherty County Board of Assessors to give a boost in pay to Chief Appraiser Larry Thomas.

Thomas, who was promoted to chief appraiser last year after serving a lengthy term as assistant chief appraiser, had exceeded expectations, Ashberry said and was being paid below the median salary for chief appraisers.

The request was hard for some on the commission to swallow.

"I just think this is just opening a can of worms," Commissioner Jack Stone said. "I'm the first one for giving our employees raises, but we need to give them all raises. If we grant just this one, we'll have every department up here lined up."

Commissioner Muarlean Edwards, however, said she felt like the commission should table the issue until it could get more information about whether the increase was being sought as a merit raise or as pay equality matter.

"I think we need to give the staff a chance to tell us what information they have on this before we vote on it," Edwards said.

Edwards tendered a motion to table but it was defeated 3-4.

The pay increase would have boosted Thomas' pay from $66,391.60 to $72,254.76, which was recommended by the Board of Assessors.