City of Nelson Council Work Session & Public Hearing on Police
December 5, 2016
1985 Kennesaw Ave. ~ Nelson, GA 30151
- Call to order
- Pledge of Allegiance
- Agenda Approval
- Public Hearing
- This is to allow for public input in regards to the police department issue which is deciding whether to close this service down or continue on in some capacity that is within the fiscally responsible means of the city. The council is to vote on this issue at the regular council meeting being held on January 2, 2017 @ 7:00pm and would like input from the citizens of the city of Nelson.
- Presentation made by Barry Holbert
- Mr. Holbert from Maxis Engineering is going to present the findings pertaining to the drainage issues on Cherokee Avenue (tabled)
- Work Session
- 2016 LMIG project completion which is to include work on Cherokee Avenue drainage.
- Vote to submit 2017 LMIG application and to define projects that will be included.
- Discussion on the city's involvement and a resolution on the drainage issue at 1830 Pickens Street.
- Public Comments
Letter from Duane Cronic
Dear Council members,
After viewing the article in last weeks Pickens Progress regarding "needles being found" at the park, I inquired to Ms. Monaghan, in her capacity as interim City Manager, to give me more detail on the incident. The article only devoted one sentence to the issues, and left all detail out. Ms. Mongahan gave me a more specific description of the needle incident, along with some additional problems in the park.
First I would say I am concerned that throughout the needles incident, the people in the restroom, and the cars parked at all hours of the night no one thought enough about them to call 911 when they happened or were found. As i understand, we are now going to begin to call 911, but I am not sure why this was not the standard procedure from the beginning. If a strange incident happens outside my own home I would not wait a few days to report it to one of our elected officials in conversation; I would immediately contact 911. All of this leads people to question why all of this is being brought up a week before the public hearing on the future of Police in Nelson? I would certainly hope people would not try to politicize these incidents to justify/scare others into a new full-time police department, but I do have to say the timing is strange.
Some suggestions that I have gathered over this past week include:
1) Place the original barriers back up on the road leading down to the walking trail to prohibit vehicles from driving down there. That way everyone is forced to park in the parking lot. People using the ball field will have to walk, but that is a small price to pay for extra protection.
2) Lock the restrooms at night once the park "closes". If the park has a closing time then the restrooms should be locked during that time. I see the ball field restrooms can be locked... why not the others? It may be an inconvenience, but it is something the City can say they are doing to stop the problem.
3) Purchase the security cameras/system that was allocated in the Capital Improvement Plan and were supposed to have been purchased in 2014 using public safety SPLOST funds. (before the prior Council decided to re-order the plan to begin pouring money into the so-called Community Center). Place signs telling people the park is under 24 hour surveillance.
4) Have a security light purchased through park & rec SPLOST funds and strategically place it in the walking trail where the power lines cut through so there is more visibility at night, and people will be less likely to hide in the woods.
The problem I see with the walking trail is that it is beyond the control of the City. When the park consisted of just a ball field and play ground, the city could have controlled these two areas with cameras. The cameras would allow anyone to know exactly what was going on at the park at any time during the day or night. Once the walking trail was cleared out and extended to the Laurel Lake subdivision, the city lost its ability to control the situation. There are now multiple entrances/exits to the walking trail. People can go in one way and come out the other whenever they want. There is no way to secure the trail without an 8 foot fence, gate, and 24/7 monitoring.
I have discussed many times before the unforeseen operational costs of the use of SPLOST money. The city seems to have no problem spending SPLOST money on projects. Often, city officials do not take the time to look at how much additional money will be needed for upkeep, security, and maintenance (operational costs) over the lifetime of that project (look at the community center to find a perfect example of this mistake). I see the walking trail as one of these issues. It sounded like a wonderful idea at the time... who would not want a nice place to walk??? Now unforeseen issues are coming to light, and I am afraid some community members along with city officials believe the solution is to throw money at it in the form of a full time police department.
A full time police department would require at least 2 officers. If the city pays 2 officers $17.00/hour (which is below the avg rate) and each works 40 hours a week that would be $1,360 a week in salaries or roughly $67,000 a year. Add to that vehicle costs, gas, FICA, Insurance, training, etc and your back up to the $90,000 number we were at two years ago. That number would greatly increase if you increased their hourly rates to match surrounding municipalities. I would hate to see this Council destroy the wonderful financial work of this past year by attempting to take money from one department and try to half fund an additional police department when that money can go to other things. For the first time in many years, Nelson is finally moving out of the financial stranglehold it was in. I do not want to see us go back into one.
As I understand, some on the Council think we can pay for police by raising the millage rate. The city brings in around $34,000 a year in taxes. To have a full time police department paid for through a tax increase would require the city to raise an additional $90,000+. This would require a millage rate increase of 5 mills. That means whatever property owners pay this year in city taxes would be 5 times as much next year. So someone who pays $50.00 in taxes will now be asked to pay $250. That is unheard of in other municipalities and will be hard for any elected official to justify to the taxpayers. I created a millage rate increase table based on property values in 2013 when I was on the Council that showed the amount of money the city would bring in based on different millage rate increases. Property values have increased since then, which does allow for more revenue but you are only talking about small amounts. It would require a substantial millage rate increase to bring in the type of revenue you would need for a department that size.
Has anyone collected any data that would show the need for a police department? Has anyone looked at the 911 call record from Cherokee and Pickens counties over the past year to analyze when/if a police presence is necessary? That study was done in 2013. I took an entire year's worth of 911 calls and analyzed them. What I found was the police were most needed between 10:30 PM and 5:30 AM. However, the number of calls did not rise to the level that would require a police officer be in the city during that time frame. Now, some may say that's because we had a police officer here during the day. However you would be wrong. It was public knowledge at the time that all citizens were to contact 911, no matter what time of day so there was a documented record of the event. If a call was taken at City Hall, the person was directed at that time to hang up and contact 911.
I would hope the people we elected, and entrusted with our money would take the same measures when deciding whether or not a Police Department is justified in Nelson. Take the time to actually collect and look at data (budget costs vs. needs). Please do not make a decision that is going to put more burden on the taxpayers of Nelson if that decision is based on emotion and personal thoughts. There are always other ways to remedy these problems without a Police department.
Please do not just take anyone's word as fact. I am willing to sit down with any of you and show you where my numbers come from and how I came to my conclusions. If others are not willing to do the same, then they are basing their decisions on emotions and have not considered the impact their decisions will have on the taxpayers of Nelson.
- Executive Session