Public safety officials support SPLOST VI

Photo by Jennifer Parks

Photo by Jennifer Parks

ALBANY, Ga. -- From a public safety standpoint, not having the proper equipment in place means personnel are unable to do their jobs when the community needs them most.

Representatives from various agencies including the Albany Police Department, Albany Fire Department, Dougherty County Sheriff's Office and the Dougherty County Police Department all came together at a news conference Monday in support of the special-purpose, local-option sales tax currently on the table as a way to fund many of those needs.

APD Chief John Proctor the sales tax revenue would help fill the needs of his department ranging from a mobile command center to an electronic ticket system to a firearms simulator.

"This is just to bring us into the modern age," the chief said. "I think there is a benefit to bringing us into a new age."

The firearms simulator has a lot of potential for making officers more efficient at their job, Proctor said. "We have to train them to be prepared," he said. "This job is getting more and more dangerous."

Fire Chief James Carswell said that SPLOST VI revenues are needed to bring the department's infrastructure, namely the fire stations and equipment, up to date.

"Everything on SPLOST for us is for service delivery," he said.

The fire department is looking to replace its fire station on Holley Drive, which has begun to fall into a state of disrepair. The AFD is also attempting to replace three emergency vehicles, all of which have met their 15-20 year life expectancy.

The 911 center is in need of some updates and also needs to be structured so that there are not multiple vendors dealing with maintenance issues -- something that Carswell says can be costly.

"We have good operators, but our equipment is aging," he said.

Representatives from Dougherty County EMS were not at the event Monday because of a schedule conflict, which allowed Carswell to speak to the importance of that department as well.

"If (the EMS) can't depend on equipment when an alarm goes off, how good is it?" the fire chief said. "If the ER doesn't get a viable patient, the bottom line is that it does no good."

Dougherty Sheriff Kevin Sproul addressed the needs of the county jail. "It has been open since 1995, but under 24/7 operation, it really has 45 years on it," the sheriff said.

The 376,000 square-foot facility, which has doubled in size since it opened, houses more than 1,200 beds. The inmate population is roughly 800-900 a day. The growth has resulted in a lack of available parking spaces, and roughly a million meals are being cooked there a year. The roof originally placed on the building, which was meant to last 10 years, is still in place.

In light of this, Sproul is looking to maintain a secure parking lot as well put in more security and safety measures -- specifically, cameras -- in the facility.

"We want staff to be as safe as possible," Sproul said. "It would reduce and prevent a lot of liability issues and provide a safer environment overall."

Dougherty Police Chief Don Cheek said he wants to install some mobile data terminals in the department's patrol cars to get and process information in the field faster.

"We are so far behind the technology curve it's scary," Cheek said. "If we can do something to make us more effective in the field, we are doing the community a service.

"Somewhere along the line, we have to move into the 21st century."

Cheek added that some of the DCPD patrol cars need to be rotated out. "We put a lot of time in these vehicles," he said, "and it's wearing them out."

SPLOST VI, which is expected to generate $98 million for various projects over the next six years, will be on the ballot Nov. 2. If it passes, it will replace SPLOST V -- which will phase out in March.

The event Monday was coordinated by Citizens for Common Cents, a group formed to promote passage of the sales tax referendum.

"First of all, we want to say to the citizens to vote," said Bishop Victor Powell of Rhema Word Cathedral. "Secondly, even if you disagree with parts of the SPLOST, don't dismiss the whole SPLOST; there are so many things on SPLOST.

"Thirdly, Albany, Georgia needs to move to the modern age. At any given time, our family members may need this technology."

A project list for SPLOST VI can be found at www.albany.ga.us. You can see the meausre at it appears on Dougherty County ballots at www.albanyherald.com by going to News on the blue pulldown menu and then clicking on Elections.