After a full 12 months of meetings and negotiations, the Savannah-Chatham County Metro Police Department will split, that’s the word from the Chatham County commission today.
Commissioners voted 5 to 4 to separate from the city and form a county-only police department.
“I will not be shamed or guilted or intimidated into making a decision by anyone,” said Commissioner Lori Brady. “They (the city of Savannah) have messed up this whole process and I am not going to be blamed for it.”
“We’ve been sitting on this for six weeks waiting for an answer and they didn’t respond,” said Commissioner Helen Stone.
Fiery words from County Commissioners who say they are tired of the city’s “games” and are ready to stop playing.
“I take no joy in seeing this department de-merge,” explains Stone. “I think its going to be a great deal of effort from the county, I think its not going to be in the best interest of the city. But i think our hands are tied at this point. If there is lack of communication and working together I don’t know how in fact this can continue.”
The vote was a forgone conclusion. 5-4 In favor of ending negotiations and thus ending the 11 years of merged policing in Savannah and Chatham County.
“Its a win win for unincorporated areas and finally a step after many many years where they aren’t going to be treated like a red headed stepchild,” said Commissioner Dean Kicklighter.
“I guess this body got tired of caving in and decided to step up and do the right thing which is either demand equality for the 85,000 or so residents, or move on and give them better services for less money.”
Less money. About $12 million a year for a new chatham county police department and an additional $4 million in start up costs.
That’s about a million less than the current agreement with the city.
So while the future appears to be split, Commission Chairman Al Scott isn’t ready to give up yet.
“This is a motion to end the merged police department. Who knows what motion you will have at the next meeting,” explains Al Scott.
“So this is not the end in your mind?”
“It could be the end, i hope it is not. That’s all i’m saying.”
“I’m not telling you i’m interested in any more negotiations. I’m just telling you i’m going to continue to work to keep the merger intact. By whatever means necessary,” said a defiant Scott.
“Its one thing to react to emotional sentiments, to make a motion and get five votes. Who knows there may be another motion made at the next meeting where you cant get five votes or you may get more votes,. Its a legislative process, its very fluid. and i never say no to anything.”
Chairman Scott reminded all commissioners before the vote that this will cost more money – and that means tough decisions and tough votes about increasing taxes in the county – in the near future.
That didn’t seem to phase Commissioners.
Now plans are in place for a workshop for next week to talk about the costs and procedures of starting a new Police Department.
UPDATE: The city vote of 7-1 has decided to pass the former merger agreement previously approve by the County commission.
They then approved motion to send agreement vote to County Managers Office, effective immediately.
Chatham County votes to end merger negotiation and will begin process to create own Chatham county police department.
Vote was 5-4
Those in favor: