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Dougherty County Jail officials seek funding for surveillance upgrade

Dougherty Commission approves funding that should improve county residents’ ISO ratings

David Milliner tells Dougherty County Commissioners about a first-responder barbecue cook-off his business, Sonny's BBQ of Albany, will sponsor later this month during the commission's business meeting Monday. (Herald staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

David Milliner tells Dougherty County Commissioners about a first-responder barbecue cook-off his business, Sonny's BBQ of Albany, will sponsor later this month during the commission's business meeting Monday. (Herald staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — Dougherty County Commissioners were asked Monday to consider reallocating $300,000 in Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax VI funds to pay for a surveillance system upgrade at the Dougherty County Jail.

Jail Administrator Col. John Ostrander told commissioners earlier estimates for the surveillance upgrade were based on incomplete information and the amount allocated for the project ($325,000) was inadequate. With the overall system upgrade, the addition of exterior cameras needed to give the jail what Ostrander called a “comprehensive surveillance system,” and a suggested $24,000-a-year extended warranty for years three, four and five, the cost of the system came in at $569,200.

County Administrator Richard Crowdis said the system could be funded by reallocating $300,000 of the $800,000 in SPLOST VI funding earmarked for parking lot expansion at the jail, a project Ostrander said was also underfunded.

“We looked at the jail footprint, and we can’t find a way to adequately expand parking at ground level,” the jail director said. “That left us to look at multilevel parking. And $800,000 would not be enough for a project like that.

“What I’d like to suggest is that you reallocate some of the money from the parking lot expansion fund and use it for the surveillance upgrade. We could ask for (additional) parking lot funding on the next SPLOST.”

Crowdis said the surveillance upgrade is important for a number of reasons, including officer safety and as a hedge against possible lawsuits.

“We’ve been behind industry standards for several years,” Ostrander said of the jail’s current surveillance system.

Commissioners made a lot of county property owners happy by approving funding for four Ford F650 trucks, which will be used by the Albany Fire Department as service trucks/hose tenders, and 24,000 feet of 5-inch, high-pressure water hose that will allow county homes located within 5 miles of a fire station but not located within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant to meet upgraded ISO standards. By purchasing enough high-pressure water hose and having vehicles to adequately transport them, the fire department can drop the ISO ratings of some 1,200 homes in the county from a 9 to a 2.

The lower rating would decrease the average residence’s insurance rates by half, and retail property that falls under the new rating could realize savings in the thousands of dollars each year, according to AFD Chief James Carswell.

“Using conservative estimates,” Carswell said in an earlier conversation with The Albany Herald, “the county should realize a $10 million return on a $623,000 investment over the next 10 years.”

The commission also approved the $45,690 purchase of two Dodge Charger Police Interceptors for the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office and three Chevrolet Impalas for Dougherty County Police at $63,018.

Community organizer David Milliner, who is the manager of Sonny’s BBQ in Albany, asked for the commission’s “blessing” on Sonny’s planned April 26 First Responder Barbecue Challenge. Area EMS, dispatch, firefighter, law enforcement and rescue personnel will take part in the barbecue cook-off for the right to be named champion barbecue team among first-responders.

“This is a way for us to say thank you to first responders,” Milliner told the commission. “It will also give the public an opportunity to come out and meet these people who put their lives on the line for the community. This is also a way for Sonny’s to become more actively involved in our community.”

Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard lauded Milliner for the free event, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. behind the Sonny’s BBQ restaurant at 1900 N. Slappey Blvd.

“We applaud you,” Sinyard said. “This is being done for all the right people for all the right reasons. On behalf of this commission, we wish you the best.”