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Dougherty may cut county police officers, street lights

ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty County Commissioners weighed deep cuts to help balance the FY 2013 Special Services District budget Wednesday, including cutting power to most of the street lights in the unincorporated area and cutting 16 positions from the Dougherty County Police Department.

Described as Plan B, the proposals discussed Wednesday could only happen if the commission decides against a 2-mill tax increase for the residents of the unincorporated area of the county.

Heading into Wednesday's meeting of the Dougherty County Finance Subcommittee meeting, it was expected that the three-commissioner panel would leave the fifth floor of the government center having recommended a budget to the full county commission for consideration.

That didn't happen.

Instead, commissioners voted instead to forward the FY2013 budget without a recommendation.

"I'm not prepared to put more on the backs of our taxpayers today," District 2 Commissioner John Hayes said. "I know the burden that our citizens are already taking and we're about to ask them for another penny in sales taxes with the T-SPLOST. I'm not prepared to ask them to carry another two mills on their property taxes."

Commissioner Ewell Lyle, who has been pushing County Administrator Richard Crowdis to cut spending or find alternative sources of revenue rather than raise taxes, said that one thing he's learned from the discussions is that the unincorporated area lacks the industries or residential components to support itself.

"The Special Services District doesn't have the tax base to support itself. I just don't know what else to do," Lyle said. "I don't want to cut police officers or street lights but a 27 percent increase in the millage rate is just as intolerable."

Crowdis' "Plan B," would allow commissioners to avoid the 2-mill tax increase which would save residents of the unincorporated area about $80 dollars a year for those with $100,000 worth of property. It would also mean heavy cuts to public safety.

Currently, residents of the unincorporated area exclusively pay for the budget of the Dougherty County Police Department, animal control and street lighting in the unincorporated area. The budget also funds two inter-governmental agreements with the city of Albany to provide fire service in the unincorporated area, planning and development services and recreational services.

Of the $7.1 million budgeted for the Special Services District (SSD). Of that total, the DCP is allocated $3.1 million. The county's budget for the SSD provides $3.l1 million to the City of Albany for fire protection in the district.

According to Crowdis, the county could likely save $130,000 by cutting off power to most of the streetlights in the unincorporated area, not counting lights at intersections.

Doing away with animal control would save another $138,000, he said.

But the majority of the cuts needed to bridge the $1,049,000 budget deficit in the SSD would have to come from the DCP. More than $800,000 would be needed from the department, a move DCP Chief Don Cheek said would likely result in the slashing of nearly half his department.

"Cutting 16 positions out of my 40-person department would be devastating for us and for the county," Cheek said. "You would gut the police department if you take 16 positions."

The vote by the committee means that the full county commission will take up the discussion on how best to close the budget gap in the SSD next week. A public hearing on the proposed budgets for Dougherty County has been scheduled for Monday at 10 a.m.

County Commissioner Gloria Gaines, who isn't a member of the finance committee but has sat in on many of the finance committee meetings since arriving on the commission, offered a suggestion Wednesday that would involve soliciting help from Procter & Gamble, the major manufacturer left in the unincorporated area.

Her suggestion would be to go to P&G and ask them for a one-time payment to the county to support the police department, which ultimately serves the massive manufacturer.

"We're just that desperate, it appears," Gaines said. "That's who they depend on and they're not paying their fair share of taxes anyway because the (payment in lieu of taxes) is so reduced."

County officials say that P&G has not paid property taxes on their sprawling Liberty Expressway complex since they came to town. Instead, they've negotiated payments in lieu of taxes to the county and school system.

Those payments, according to county officials, are a fraction of what the company's tax bill would normally be. The breaks were granted by the Payroll Development Authority as an incentive to bring P&G to town and then keep them here.

Comments

KaosinAlbany 1 year, 10 months ago

At least the County Commission is looking to avoid the tax increase while the City Commission could careless about looking for ways to trim the budget. We have some pretty lazy City Commissioners and Mayor.

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VSU 1 year, 10 months ago

On the flip side, it just makes Dougherty County less safer. Too much crime going on to cut police officers and lights were designed to make places safer.

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jglass 1 year, 10 months ago

We just got a few street lights where I live. I guess they were short lived. Cutting police does not sound like a good idea.

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tocar 1 year, 10 months ago

Dougherty County / Albany is an unsafe area to live. We do not need to cut off power to any street lights or cut the police department. How realistic and foolish is that when the crime rate is so high here? Also, if police department positions are reduced, then the remaining men and women certainly do not have any backup assistance. This makes it more dangerous for these officers. Sixteen people cannot protect 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Maybe some pay reductions are needed in upper management. I am certain Mr. Crowdis would not agree with this. The more I read and hear about our county and city governments just re-enforces the thoughts of moving from this place.

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dingleberry 1 year, 10 months ago

So what is the amount of PILOT P&G pays and which kitty is the payment going into? It is unfortunate that the SSD takes it in the shorts because it houses the industries that fuel the entire economy for DoCo/Albany and many of them use "payments". In reality, a case could be made for equalization payments to correct the inequity.

How much money is being spent on roads and grounds and which district funds it? And who pays the upkeep on the Radium Springs fiasco? The picture isn't real clear on what is coming out of the three districts and why--as I see it. But tread lightly since this is where the argument for consolidations comes in. No one in their right mind would want to consolidate with Albany's welfare establishment to support.

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Outtahere 1 year, 10 months ago

Good questions. From your posts, you seem knowledgable and logical.

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tocar 1 year, 10 months ago

Maybe it would be an advantage to go ahead and consolidate county law enforcements. At least the employees would have adequate backup assistance and equipment to work with. The salaries of the DCP Chief and his office cronies would not be dipping big time salary wise.

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Cartman 1 year, 10 months ago

A common and dishonest political tactic of a commission resentful that it must cut spending. If the budget needs to be cut; then make the cuts in the areas that the public will hold most dear - then the public will clamor for you not to make the cuts and will better tolerate a tax increase. Schools boards do this all the time by cutting teachers before anything else in their budgets. A laid-off police officer makes a sympathetic poster child for raising taxes. When in fact, he should never have been cut in the first place. What's wrong with going to each department head and telling them that their spending will be 15% less than last year? Cut unecessary items altogether. Put off procurement of new vehicles. Make the old ones last one more year. Keep everyone and cut salaries. There are many things you can do, some are painful. Just like a family budget. Less money. Less spending. No choice.

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Shinedownfan 1 year, 10 months ago

I was thinking the same thing, Cartman. They suggest the stuff we DONT want to cut so that we will say, "okay then, raise the millage rate.". If they wanna cut off street lights, shut off every-other one of them new lights on Westover. They are overkill anyway. I feel sorry for the houses that back up to that road

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VSU 1 year, 10 months ago

Shinedown, I have been thinking of that since day 1 they put those ligthts there. They are too close together, they could have spent half of that money by spreading them out further, if you look at it now, take out every other light, they could have saved a lot of money and electricity.

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Outtahere 1 year, 10 months ago

Cartman: Very well said and oh so true! They think they're smarter than us!

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FryarTuk 1 year, 10 months ago

Kudos to the Commission for working hard on the Budget. I want to learn more about the sweetheart deal with P&G before I say more about it but it sure bares a close look by the Commission. It may be time for the County to consolidate the County Police Department and the Sherif's Department. There is a great deal of duplication of services and expenses in the functions of the two departments. Follow appropriate regulations to make the Sherif's Department an administrative and custodial agency to look after jails, courts, court houses and warrant service. Move all enforcement, patrol and investigation to the Police Department. A second choice would be to dismantle the entire County Police Department but I rather prefer the first idea as it brings more direct attention and application to the specific needs of the County. A dramatic savings would result.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 10 months ago

I agree, if we could consolidate the County and City then we would be in better financial shape. But, no, we cannot even have a chance to vote on the issue.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 10 months ago

What happened to the idea to cut off the air conditioning in the Do. Co. jail? I loved that idea.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 10 months ago

Why do the citizens have to suffer who obey the laws? Jail is suppose to be punishment and NOT a free ride.

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VSU 1 year, 10 months ago

I like that idea, make them work hard cleaning up the city, mow grass, come back to a non air conditioned jail....but it will never happen. Criminals have more rights than law abiding citizens.

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bubbavet 1 year, 10 months ago

Idiot that is what they have been doing for years. Law abiding citizens just ain't been caught yet. Stupid is as stupid does. VSU alumni

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VSU 1 year, 10 months ago

Dumbbavet you are the idiot. you say stupid is as stupid does, well you just did it. J@ckA$$!

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Sally_O 1 year, 10 months ago

I count to two as I buckle my shoe, there is no one dumber & ignorant than a Bubbavet, that's you, and it's true. As sure as the word Wuss starts with the letter DubbaU, on this board you by far have the lowest IQ.

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43cop 1 year, 10 months ago

I really want to address the situation in reference to cutting power and especially DCP Officers from their force. I guess you could say "Stupid is as stupid does" to start with referring to the entire Dougherty County Commission. I am sure that J.D. Summer will come up with a logical reason as to why this will work, but he has never been out there in the field as a police officer, does not know what it takes to maintain a safe environment and if anyone has any doubt about that, check with Cliff Rouse's family. If the Dougherty County Commission is trying to force consolidation on the good people of Dougherty County, it appears they are headed in the right direction. Maybe someone should have run against every person that now holds office, but who really wants these jobs any way. Many years ago, Augusta was stopped from some of these same tactics by the fereral government and it appears this will be the only solution left. Have them just take over and run the City and County the best way they see fit, but not under the present Local, State or Federal administration or we will be a worst welfare county than we are now. Local: What we now have; State: can even stand up to CRCT cheating and Federal: you figure it out.

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FlunkyMonkey 1 year, 10 months ago

My question is why do the fat cats who sit on the commission give up their salary for one year? We are being asked to give up our safety (yep, cut the lights, cut the cops and crime will increase) so why don't the fat cats give up something? Seems only fair.

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Progressive 1 year, 10 months ago

The commissioners did not recommend cutting the Police Force, or lighting. The police reduction was only an example used by the Chief to illustrate what it would take to save a designated amount of money. The County Admin used the lighting as an example for one area to cut in the Unincorporated area to save money. Budget decissions still need to be made. Call your county commssioner with your thoughts. "Cartman" had it right with the notion to use this as a tactic to prompt an emotional response. There are definitely other ways to cut expenses for a short term approach. A longer term strategic plan needs to be considered for consolidating existing duplicated services.

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J.D._Sumner 1 year, 10 months ago

43 Cop, I merely cover the meetings and report to you what is discussed. I have no influence whatsoever in how policy decisions are made.

If you have concerns about police, street lighting or animal control cuts, or any cuts for that matter, then call your county commissioner.

If you aren't sure who that is, e-mail me and I'll be happy to provide you with a directory.

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YDoICare 1 year, 10 months ago

Mr. Sumner, 43cop may be referring not to the actual articles, but to comments made by you toward other commentors. For example, your “How can the populace expect to have competent elected officials when most of the voters are ignorant to the government as evidenced by Moma?” (http://www.albanyherald.com/news/2012...). As I replied then, “the media could help combat public ignorance by informing the public as to how and where to obtain easy access to the itemized penny by penny budgets. Some media sources even publish or provide online access to assist the public.” “It is the responsibility of both the public and the press to demand answers and to expose the incompetency. Members of the press should not be writing articles or making assertions about the total voting populace using a sampling of only one individual. Likewise, the public should not condemn the press for reporting both positives and negatives, nor should either the public or press confuse unbiased reporting versus editorial pieces.” (see previous link for full remarks).

As to these statements: “43 Cop, I merely cover the meetings and report to you what is discussed. I have no influence whatsoever in how policy decisions are made.” Sir you are incorrect, being a member of the press does not dismiss your rights as a citizen. Like any citizen, you have the right to request answers and additional details on policy decisions made by public bodies that are charged with the responsibility of representing the concerns of those in their district. There is no need or public desire for editorializing in specific articles by members of the press. The press, however, has an advantage over an individual citizen in obtaining information as the press is also a representative of its readers and has special access to individuals and information not readily available to the general populace. Whereas a voter or reader has one voice, the press is a multitude of voices charged with combating “ignorance.” Whether in the days of attaching a “Press” card to a hat or lapel or in today’s world, investigative reporting and simply creating a means by which the public can view specific documents and proposals have changed the course of events.

You are correct sir that 43cop should contact his county commissioner, but instead of only reporting the “what” asking the questions of “how” and “why” and reporting the responses are just as vital. Then, it can proceed to the “show me the evidence” with Georgia and its open records procedures. Even if both media and individuals can file, should the same question and answer be sent 100 times or to the public information medium to distribute the contents to many more through the power of the pen?

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Cartman 1 year, 10 months ago

Don't kill the messenger, dude.

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YDoICare 1 year, 10 months ago

Cartman, not attempting to kill the messenger but hoping to shine a light so that the messenger can look back and see some of the greatest accomplishments made possible only by the press demanding answers. It seems that things are getting worse in Albany, and I just learned that a couple of friends and former colleagues are leaving to teach at a college in Florida for the Fall semester. Like me, they once thought of retiring in the area but without any family ties, why not try another place where you feel like you can make a difference? Too many good people have left, but a lot still remain. From reading and old friends, however, it seems that even fewer people are catching the fish each year. So if the media would investigate, they might discover the holes where the fish are hiding, and just how these sweet spots developed instead of merely showing pictures of the catch. I think Mr. Sumner has the ability to not just pass along the pictures, but to discover the bait and whether or not the pond has been stocked. Many people are willing to fish, but not if they have nothing left to bait their hooks or as is the possibility based on similar communities, no water in which to wet their lines as the ponds have all been drained or fenced in.

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Cartman 1 year, 10 months ago

I agree with everything you just stated.

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bubbavet 1 year, 10 months ago

Chief Cheek must be doing something good if they want to cut his staff in half

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VSU 1 year, 10 months ago

Like your brain is cut in half, and left the stupid part intact.

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TheMember 1 year, 10 months ago

I say let's consolidate the county and city so we can save the money from the excess management. If we consolidate, if may require everyone to get out of the recliners and go vote in the most qualified candidates to run each department. Just because we consolidate doesn't mean all the clowns from the city or all the clowns from the county will go with the deal, some will have to find other employment. Example, if the police departments join forces, we will save the excess management salaries and maybe we would elect the right one to run the department. It only makes sense, but it will require the public getting out, electing the right candidate and then most importantly, holding them accountable.

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43cop 1 year, 10 months ago

YDoICare, Thank you for your response to my posting and as far as contacting my County Commissioner, I did and I will not post what he said. His language was not professional nor did it pertain to the subject that I requested. This is plainly about bad decisions that are being brought up for passage and as far as you, J.D., emailing me who my commissioner is, thank you, but I already know as referred to in my above response.

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tocar 1 year, 10 months ago

FlunkyMonkey, I agree with your comments. "We are being asked to give up our safety." You are correct in that the fat cats could give up something. It seems only fair. If we have to give up something, then they should do the same. Since when did Dougherty County become so large that we need all of these employees in high salaried positions. There are too many chiefs or educated idiots. It is not difficult to figure out what the priorities should be. Safety and protection of our county should be considered number 1.

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Kay523 1 year, 10 months ago

Reason will prevail - the DCP will not be cut but the County Unincorporated Millage Rate will go up - maybe not 2 mils but up. It is sad that the County won't cut the welfare waste and the health care fiasco to balance the budget. They wasted all that money on the blue arch and the Radium Springs "garden". Make Phoebe pay and get these "non-profits" back on the tax digest. We should respect the DCP - they keep the crime rate down. What do you want? More crime or higher taxes?

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