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Commissioner suggests merging DCPD, DCSO

County employees won't have to deal with unpaid holidays this year, officials say.

James Balch, a resident opposed to tax increases in the county, asks commissioners Monday to abandon an idea to raise the millage rate by 2 mills in the county.

James Balch, a resident opposed to tax increases in the county, asks commissioners Monday to abandon an idea to raise the millage rate by 2 mills in the county.

— Dougherty County Commissioner Ewell Lyle suggested Monday during a budget hearing that the commission should merge the Dougherty County Police Department and Dougherty County Sheriff's Office as a cost-cutting measure.

The suggestion came as a surprise to both Dougherty County Police Chief Don Cheek and Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul, each of whom said that he would need more time to explore the possibility of consolidation to determine if there were any potential cost-savings.

The Dougherty County Commission is working to find ways to spare the residents of the unincorporated portion of the county from receiving a 2-mil increase on property taxes.

The fund that covers the residents of the unincorporated county, the Special Services District Fund, is set to end the current fiscal year with a $260,000 deficit. It will have to be propped up by the general fund, which is paid for by county residents who live within the corporate limits of the city of Albany.

Lyle's suggestion came at a time when commissioners and county staff have been working to put together a viable FY 2013 budget before that fiscal year begins on July 1.

Before Lyle's recommendation, County Administrator Richard Crowdis told commissioners that county staff had managed to scrape up enough cash to avoid forcing county employees to take three unpaid holidays — a move that would have been the equivalent of a 1 percent pay cut.

Crowdis said that Public Works Director Larry Cook had agreed to delay some capital equipment purchases that, coupled with a transfer from the county's capital improvements budget, allowed the county to move $296,000 into the county's general fund, Solid Waste Enterprise Fund and Special Services District Fund to offset the unpaid holidays.

While employees will benefit from the work of the county staff, the commissioners are still wrestling with the political ramifications of a possible tax increase.

Monday morning, commissioners met with a room full of concerned residents who, in no uncertain terms, asked the board to refrain from any kind of tax increase.

"It's important to look at creative ways to fix this. It's too easy to say, 'Let's raise millage rates,'" said Marsha Aaron, who said that she pays $4,000 each year in property taxes.

Randy Tyson, who was one of only a handful of people, including Aaron, to sit through the commission's three-hour budget discussion Monday, urged the county to take another look at its agreements with the city of Albany for any possible savings.

Speaking of the $3.1 million that the county pays in a service-delivery agreement to the city for fire services in the unincorporated area, Tyson said that was too much to spend for just 50 employees.

"That's a lot of money for 50 employees," Tyson said.

Heading into the final two weeks of budget negotiations, Chairman Jeff Sinyard tasked Crowdis with preparing numbers that reflect a combination of incremental budget increases.

Sinyard has broadened the county finance committee's responsibilities so that budget discussions and departmental reviews will carry on throughout the year, rather than start in January. He also pointed to a list of cities with populations that were comparable to that of the unincorporated area and showed how their police and fire budgets compared.

"We've got to have benchmarks that ensure that we're getting a good rate on what we're paying for police and fire services and that we're getting a quality product," Sinyard said. "Of the six cities on this list, we're lower than five of them. I think that show's we're getting a good value. ... If 80 to 90 percent of my business's budget is two items, I'm going to make sure those two items are the best we can get at the lowest possible cost."

The list of cities Sinyard referenced includes mostly Southwest Georgia cities with comparable populations — Tifton, Americus, Brunswick, Moultrie, Thomasville and Milledgeville. Of those six, only Millegdeville had a lower police and fire budget.

Some on the commission are expected to attend a meeting at 9:30 a.m. today. According to Commissioner John Hayes, the meeting will be an informational session on how local governments can reduce costs.

Comments

waltspecht 2 years, 6 months ago

Wouldn't the savings be at the management level, Doing away with the County Police administrators and shifting their duties to the existing Sheriff's Administrators? Thereby keeping the coverage on the street where it belongs?

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reb_arty1863 2 years, 6 months ago

If you look across this state, there are very few counties that maintain a county police department and a Sheriffs Dept. The majority of counties , by far, have just a Sheriffs Dept. The Sherriffs Department is headed by a duly elected constitutional officer known simply as The Sheriff. The few county Department's serve at the pleasure of the County Commission.

Combining simply makes sense. You should also be able to cut back on buildings being maintained at county expense.

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Cartman 2 years, 6 months ago

The Dougherty County Police was formed during the tenure of Do Co Comm Chair, Gil Barrett. An elected Sheriff doesn't have to answer to the County Commission Chair. Viola! The Dougherty County Police Dept was born. Honestly, I didn't think that the department would survive Gil's retirement or death. This origin is not a critical reflection of the quality of officers in the Dougherty Co Police Dept, which I think are the most professional in the area. Especially their professional appearance, which is noticeably crisper than any other local law enforcement. IMHO, fusing this department with the Sherif's office is a no brainer. Do it. Yesterday.

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tocar 2 years, 6 months ago

I agree with the merging of these departments. This would reduce the amount of higher salaries paid for duplicate services. I think that we would have more effective law enforcement protection and more man power if the two merged. It does not make sense to pay for a county chief and the high salaries of in-house support staff that needs to be eliminated. There would be many expenses that could be utilized in other ways.

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Twosons 2 years, 6 months ago

What do they mean--the Public Works Director agreed to delay some purchases. Who does he work for? If he didn't agree, our taxes would have increased? Let me tell my superior--"Ok, I agree, I will not spend that much now."

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DoctorDorite 2 years, 6 months ago

Should'nt they be comparing county size (population) rather than city size since this is the County Commision ? and since when did Moultrie and Americus become the size of Albany ? A snow job in June, gotta love-it, LOL

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J.D._Sumner 2 years, 6 months ago

Doc,

The reason they're comparing cities is because the unincorporated area, when taken by itself is relatively the same population (roughly 17,000) as those cities. And since the unincorporated area residents pay for police and fire services out of their taxes, they compared what people in those comparable-sized cities were paying for police and fire services.

The city of Albany is much larger than the unincorporated area in terms of population.

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DoctorDorite 2 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for clearing that up, now it makes better sense.

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alleebrin 2 years, 6 months ago

This suggestion has surfaced before and went nowhere. It seems that consolidating would save money for the taxpayers and step on the toes of management. Geez!

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willie 2 years, 6 months ago

On the surface the merger sounds great. The biggest obsticle is the political hat in the ring.

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FryarTuk 2 years, 6 months ago

Now we're cooking! County commissioners slightly are ahead of the curve. Go one step further. Reduce radio/communication functions to a single unit. If you have the courage look at assigning criminal enforcement to the DCPD and the administrative/civil to DCSD. Follow the procedures and get this done for the Dougherty citizens and taxpayers. You are on the right track.

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