It costs money to separate police departments, will both sides be better off?

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — For supporters of the “split” between Savannah Metro Police and Chatham County, the issue was always the cost of service.

Was Chatham County getting what they were paying for? Was the city getting paid enough?

Since the merger 15 years ago, some on the Chatham County Commission would indicate “no”. Over the years, several commissioners offered up the idea that as much as $3 million could be saved by a separation.

And while that may be true eventually, there are definite start-up costs.

Chatham County officials anticipate start-up costs at $1.4 million, which includes technology, staffing and facility renovation. There may be an additional cost for branding, which includes such things as vehicle decals.

On the city side, the cost for branding was set a few months back at more than $1 million. This included such things as new badges and hats and decals.

Chatham County owned many precinct facilities and many of the police vehicles, forcing the city of Savannah to scramble to find facilities for their precincts and substations.

The city is leasing facilities at a cost of more than $400,000 per year. The city also must lease more than 80 new vehicles as part of the separation.

It’s been estimated that the cost of facilities, extra vehicles and any needed new staffing would cost the city an extra $5 million this year.

Money savings down the road? Perhaps.

Both sides say once the start-up is accomplished, there may be a reduction in overall costs for each side as time goes by.

So far, Chatham County has indicated that since the fiscal year started in July, it paid the city just about $6 million for the merger.

It estimates the cost of running its own county police department this year (including start-up) at $8.8 million.

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