DOWNTOWN SAVANNAH, GA – Following the Chatham county commission vote to end its agreement with the City of Savannah to keep a consolidated police department, city leaders met in reaction.
In the meeting, leaders spoke heavily of their goal to maintain a merged police department. They plan to send county commissioners back their own agreement for their consideration on the merger.
This coming after a vote by city leaders to approve the county’s version of the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police merger agreement.
“We can’t continue y’all to do this we have to move on,” said Mayor Edna Jackson, who called the “emergency” meeting to order as council members weighed in their opinions on the more than year long struggle to reach an agreement with the county.
“I find it foolish, I find it a waste of time,” said At Large Post 2 Alderman Tom Bordreaux.
“I am just deeply frustrated with how slow this has all come together, come a part and come together, come a part,” said 4th District city Alderwoman Mary Ellen Sprague.
After their comments were given, alderman Tony Thomas issued a motion to approve the latest merger agreement. This agreement in particular was the one county commissioners approved and requested revisions to back in September based off the city’s approved agreement from August.
With a 7-1 vote, this is the City’s move asking county leaders to reconsider.
“This is a last ditch effort with the county to send a clear message that city council, the city of Savannah is interested staying with this merged department, we want to try and make this work out and we’re willing to accept what they sent over before,” said alderman Tony Thomas.
City Attorney Brooks Stillwell cited the pay increases to Metro police as the possible reason behind the county ending negotiations. Right now the county is required to pay nearly a quarter share, technically 24.27 % according to Stillwell, of compensations or capital decisions. Most of those decisions, however, are made by the city and not the county, which stems back to the discrepancies with the agreement commissioners voiced.
“What we’re doing is giving them the opportunity to change their mind and save the agreement simple as that,” says Stillwell.
News 3 is still digging deeper into what makes this latest agreement the city sent back to the county different than the several agreements that have come down since July of 2014.
From recordings in the September 11th meeting of the county commission, commissioners approved the agreement with recommendations of word changes. Simply put, they recommended changes to how capital decisions for the police department such as pay raises and capital purchases are being decided. They wish those decisions would first come through the joint policy committee for Metro police before city leaders or country leaders vote for appropriations.
If that wording is in this now city approved agreement it could mean city leaders are giving up some significant power over Metro police they’ve maintained for the larger half of the decade long agreement.
In the end, this move by the city now puts in place the commission to make one last “yea” or “nay” vote to maintain a merged Savannah-Chatham Metro Police department.
“We’re sending them back the agreement they sent to us, yes we accept this now we’re asking you to honor this and accept it back,” says Thomas.
Below is a link of the minutes from commission when they approved the latest version of the merger agreement.