Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dunwoody set to fund $5.25 Million dollar police force - AJC

By April Hunt of the AJC

Even as the Dunwoody City Council reviews its 2009 budget Monday night, the main issue will be police service.

The council is expected to sign off on a projected $14.4 million budget at Monday night’s special meeting, with more than a third of the total for the new city to start its own Police Department.

As of last week, that $5.25 million proposal included pay for a 40-member force: 35 sworn officers at sergeant-grade or below for patrols and investigation, three lieutenants, a deputy chief and chief of police. Five civilians — an administrative assistant, crime scene technician, a property/evidence technician and two service representatives to help with records and the public — would round out the force.

“We are committed to developing a top-notch Police Department that interacts daily with the residents and businesses of Dunwoody,” Chief Billy Grogan said. “People need to see police cars out there.”

Increasing police protection from the current service from DeKalb County police was one of the main reasons that residents in the northern DeKalb city voted to incorporate earlier this year. Advocates of cityhood pledged that the city would be able to increase patrols.

Grogan appears ready to deliver on that promise. The county force has three officers working “beats” in Dunwoody, in each of three overlapping shifts per day.

A new city force would work just two 12-hour shifts every day. With the planned force, that means at least five officers on each shift, Grogan said.

“We are working it so that we’re able to put a little bit more officers out on the street, with the same manpower,” Grogan said.

Another concern is when those officers will be ready to go. When the council last week OK’d a deal to continue DeKalb police service for up to six months, members again insisted the city have its force ready to go by April 1.

Otherwise routine city business has been conducted in the shadow of hitting that mark. For instance, the council’s talk of insurance included several references of the need to insure patrol officers. Cost-saving questions for the budget included debates about whether the city should buy or lease its patrol cars, which it plans to let officers take home as a recruiting tool.

The latest plan calls for buying pool cars in the first year, since the city will not have the money to buy enough cars for each officer by this spring.

And the city will specify that only experienced police will be considered in its hiring. That will allow for just a month’s training, on internal policies and procedures, to get the department on the street by spring.

“It’s been a whirlwind of activity to meet that aggressive deadline of April 1,” said city manager Warren Hutmacher. “We know that we have to meet it, and we will.”

Monday’s meeting begins at 7 at Dunwoody United Methodist Church.


TwoDogsTrucking said...

There has been some rather interesting statements made concerning services. I have seen little to no mention of benchmarks and what will be done if the benchmarks are not met.

The only city department with an apparent benchmark is the police and it has solely to do with patrol, a single sub function of law enforcement services. The city promises to have 4 or 5 patrol cars as opposed to the county's 3. The county's 3 patrol beats are only 4 or so years old, before that it was 4 patrol beats. When manpower allowed (although rare) theses beats were covered by up to 7 or 8 officers. The city will have 4 detectives, less than the number of property crimes detectives currently assigned to the north precinct. The city will have none of the specialized detectives or units currently serving Dunwoody. Police services advantage DeKalb County.

At what condition/grade/defect must a road be repaved? Percentage of roadway in Dunwoody that meets the criteria for immediate repaving? Cost for the county to repave a mile and the cost for the city to repave a mile? A time frame for the work to initiate by city or by the county? I think many of the questions were answered either by Doraville or Chamblee. As I understand it one of them contracts with the county for roadwork. I can perceive no difference in roadway conditions between the three areas. Roadway services advantage DeKalb.

Are the traffic signals currently hanging in Dunwoody to become Dunwoody property? Will Dunwoody install its own traffic engineering computer to control these lights? Will Dunwoody take these lights off of the already sequenced county computer system and put them on a city computer? Does Dunwoody's traffic engineering and road/drainage departments have any presentable plans or ideas to help alleviate traffic congestion? Will Dunwoody have a greater influence with the State or metro agencies dealing with traffic than the county? Traffic Engineering advantage DeKalb.

The zoning issue is a tough one. Will the city be more favorable to the NIMBY crowd or take a broader perspective; after all Dunwoody is only a small portion of the contiguous metro area. What are the city's Zoning priorities? How are the city's Zoning ordinances more beneficial than the county's? Zoning advantage even; unless Dunwoody city government becomes a runaway HOA.

Code Enforcement. Does the city pledge not to use Code Enforcement as a primary means of revenue and for that matter the police too (Doraville estimates almost 25% of its budget comes from police/code enforcement activity). What is the city's vision for Code Enforcement? How many Code Enforcement Officers will the city employ? Code Enforcement advantage Dunwoody.

Will the city post benchmarks side by side with the services they are taking over from the county? Will the city show how it performed these services better?
Will the city promise not to expand its budget every year with items not spoken of during the campaign for incorporation? (Sandy Springs ever growing budget comes to mind)
If the city can not meet or surpass a service that is already provided will it cede the service responsibility back to the county?
If the city can not meet a majority of its benchmarks will it propose a referendum to dissolve the municipality?

I'm looking for better government not the same government in a different package.
P.S. to any state legislator who reads this I'm still very interested in the Township Act.

Ellen Fix said...

TwoDogsTrucking: Sorry, but the horse is outta the barn and the train has left the station. We are a city in search of a reason to be. As former president Ronald Reagan so infamously stated, "Mistakes were made."

And in the mad rush to individuate from DeKalb County, and with the full intention of making Dunwoody a super- extension of the DHA, the township idea was tossed out as if it were blaspheme.

Now we are left with the same old political posturings, legal ramifications, and governmental maneuverings that characterize every other city. I mean, come on -- the citizens wanted Vernon Jones out and he's OUT, so now our City Council is busy dwelling on laws about whether the city should sell vibrators or not!

Thaddeus Osbourne Dabell said...

TDT: excellent points one and all. However you are asking for rational, responsible behavior from an organization founded on chicanery and marketing that would make Joe Camel blush. You might want to refer your questions to Fran Millar who said (in email):

"[...]by delaying this one year to try to get the best data for people to make a decision (unlike Milton, Johns Creek) I do think it was the right way. Are there assumptions that might be wrong-probably. However it will be better than DeKalb in the long run if we elect responsible people and you can throw them out if they do not do a good job-unlike DeKalb."

Perhaps he can address your increasingly valid observation that we're not getting "better government" but just the "same government in a different package." Oh yeah, and at a higher price.