SAVANNAH, GA (WSAV-TV) – The Chatham county commission approved its new agreement with Savannah leaders to keep the partnership in place.
In an eight to one decision, Chatham county leaders are keeping Metro police merged with the city of Savannah.
“It not only ends the discussions of staying merged, it’s a new beginning or working together we’ve committed to five years in a relationship,” says 3rd district commissioner Tony Center.
The vote mirrored the one city leaders had a few days ago and was contentious. Seventh district commissioner Dean Kicklighter showed opposition to wording in the new agreement.
“This body has caved since 2003, we’re one amendment away from having a truly merged police department.”
That amendment aimed to change the power given to the city manager to have final say over the hiring and firing of a police chief. When brought to a vote, commissioners voted it down.
“One more inch, one more counter back we could have actually achieved equality,” says Kicklighter adding that with the city manager having final say in the chief’s job, county residents and the commission are still not getting the fair deal.
Commissioners have nearly everything they asked for in the new agreement. They will pay nearly a million dollars less over the next two years for their share of the department. This year they will have to pay upwards to $14 million dollars but that will reduce to a little more than $12 million in 2016 to level out. That’s because the new agreement only asks county leaders pay $13.1 million to the city for SCMPD.
The county manager has say in the police chief’s pay and the agreement will require police to equip cars with GPS trackers to measure how well patrols cover unincorporated areas.
“We reached a political compromise where both sides gave and took until we reached this so I ask us not to focus on the process because whatever the process was the document is before you today,” says Commissioner Center.
The merger agreement will last from now until December of 2020. Either side can opt out under certain conditions after December of 2017.
You can view the full agreement below: