Published On: Fri, Oct 23rd, 2015

City holds emergency called meeting to react to county’s withdrawal from police merger talks

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scmpd-badgeThe city of Savannah agreed in an emergency meeting Friday to approve, with changes, an agreement put forward by the county last week — a proposal the county withdrew earlier the same day.

In a 7-1 vote with only councilman Tom Bordeaux dissenting, the city agreed to accept the proposal made by the county last week except for the part that shortened the agreement by one year from Dec. 31, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2015, and deletion of language that would have required the county to pay about 25 percent of the cost of the salary increases for new hires at the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department.

But the city’s acceptance of the county proposal — even with the changes — appears to be a moot point since the county already delivered a letter to city officials just prior to the meeting informing them of its immediate withdrawal from merger negotiations and that it will begin hiring recruits and  purchasing vehicles and weapons for its own police department.

City attorney Brooks Stillwell said various scenarios might require the county to hold a referendum before establishing a new department and that some counties even allow sheriff’s departments to handle law enforcement duties in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Other city councilmen questioned whether the county’s vote might be undone, especially considering the narrow 5-4 split, pointing to a briefing received by the city which the county never got.

That briefing led the majority of the city council to heavily support the merger agreement and they asked if it might have had the same effect on the county commissioners if they had been able to hear it.

Stillwell said the city invited the county the presentation but they did not show up. He said he did not know why.

Mayor Shirley Jackson said she has always supported the merger because it is best for the community but lone dissenter Bordeaux disagreed, saying the negotiations had gone on too long with not appreciable progress and it’s time for them to end.

“I they want to walk away we should say ‘we miss you, goodby,’” he said.

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