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Fire, law enforcement studies spark county debate

ALBANY, Ga. -- Discussion of planned studies to determine if the unincorporated portion of Dougherty County would be better served with independent fire protection and a possible different law enforcement option drew the ire of one commissioner and led Monday to an extended debate of an issue that had been planned by the Dougherty County Commission at its retreat.

When County Administrator Richard Crowdis told commissioners Monday during their work session that fire and law enforcement studies by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government would help determine the feasibility of providing fire protection independent of the city of Albany's fire department or if enforcement duties carried out by the Dougherty County Police Department could be more efficiently handled by the county's sheriff's office or the Albany Police Department, District 6 Commissioner Jack Stone immediately spoke up.

"I thought we'd already put that baby to bed," Stone said. "If we're going back to this, our police officers will be put back in a position where they'll wonder if they still have a job. I don't think we need to get into this at this time."

Crowdis said he'd been directed by the commission at its retreat -- which Stone, for health reasons, was unable to attend -- to look into costs for the fire and law enforcement studies. He told the board Monday that the independent fire study would cost $24,000 and the law enforcement option study would cost $15,000.

"Y'all can spend the taxpayers' money for a study if you want to, but I already know what my opinion is," Stone said. "I'm just one person out of seven, but I'm against this."

Sinyard said the studies were suggested as possible ways to address a budget whose margins had grown razor-thin.

"Almost 90 percent of the funds spent in the unincorporated area are spent on law enforcement and fire protection," Sinyard said after the meeting. "The feeling was that anyone involved in the budget process -- and any taxpayer -- would be better served by having access to as much information as available.

"We're working with a bare-bones budget, and we have to prioritize. To do that, we need information."

District 5 Commissioner Gloria Gaines suggested having the county's Public Safety Committee look more closely at the proposed studies before a vote by the full commission is taken.

"If we can't do that, what's the purpose of the committee system?" Gaines asked.

Sinyard cited the commission's nonbinding agreement at the retreat to move forward with the studies, plus a desire to get the action on the county's May 6 business meeting agenda, as reasons to include the discussion on Monday's work session agenda.

"If this commission wants this process to go to committee, that's what we can do," Sinyard said.

District 4 Commissioner Ewell Lyle spoke against such action.

"If we're not going to look at this -- at ways of cutting our budget -- what are we going to do?" Lyle said. "I think it is our responsibility to look at these things. Taking it back to committee would only delay the inevitable."

Comments

Pappa 12 months ago

How much did the retreat cost? Why not do a study to determine the effectiveness of studies?

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MRKIA 12 months ago

STONE SEEMS TO WANT TO KEEP THE DCP JUST TO PROVIDE JOBS FOR THE OFFICERS. SOUNDS LIKE THE DCSS.

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FryarTuk 12 months ago

Dougherty (&ABY) has to look at ways to make resources go as far as possible. It is a wise decision to look at law enforcement consolidation. The duplicating of services, administration and politics burdens the taxpayers tremendously. The compressed tax base in Dougherty gets more severe by the day. Jack Stone is just not being rational about the issues and the people of his district will suffer from his intransigence. Jeff Sinyard and the other commissioners should press on toward reason and responsibility.

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KaosinAlbany 12 months ago

I totally agree with your statement.

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Pappa 12 months ago

The article does not mention consolidation. It talks about an independent fire department and county police getting help from other agencies.

They should take the funds they wasted on their pajama party, $39,000 from the studies, and other wasted funds to give the county police a greatly deserved pay raise.

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WeAreThey 12 months ago

Good Lord - another fire department? What's wrong with the one we've already bought and paid for? If our county commssioners believe there IS something wrong with it, let them speak publicly about their concerns. The 'unincorporated' taxpayers deserve to hear any concerns their elected representatives may have about current fire protection services.

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B4it 12 months ago

Part of the past issues with this base of commissioners have been making financial decisions without FACTS. While I am not in favor of having a separate Fire Department, knowing the facts and expenses should provide the commissioners with the appropriate information to make some corresponding decisions with other facets of the budgeting process, like combining the DoCo Police with the Sheriff's division.

Separating the Fire Dept. goes against any common sense solution which points toward combining resources and eliminating duplication of services to reduce expenses.

The real solutions for reducing the overall expenses would be to combine the police services, and eliminate the entire Unincorporated District by changing the inter-agency agreements between the City and the County for Fire services. These services and resources are already shared across city and county lines. However, the costs are unfairly allocated to the County's Unincorporated district.

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waltspecht 12 months ago

What part of the Fire services does the County actually use? How much of he bill do they actually pay? We know they use the County Police almost exclusively, so that is a basic cost sharing. Can the Sheriffs department replace the duplication of Supervision? The patrol Officers would in all likelyhood remain in place, simply changing uniforms. Plus, I believe the Sheriff's Patrol is paid better than the County. Some Supervisory positions would be lost, but wouldn't that represent the cost savings the Commission is trying to achieve? Time to really start to look at actual cost reductions, not some pie in the sky talk that produces nothing

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HalfFan 12 months ago

Sure you could perhaps save a little money with an independent fire service, especially if it is a down graded one that causes everyones insurance rates to go up.

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