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Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 7:52pm

Chatham County Threatens To Dissolve Police Merger If Negotiations With City Fail

The city of Savannah and Chatham County are renegotiating the terms of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department merger, and county officials are threatening to walk away if an agreement cannot be reached.

The police department is funded by both entities based on population size. On Tuesday, County Commission Chairman Al Scott presented the city with a draft of a new agreement with several proposed changes, including reducing the $1.5 million the county owes the city for its share of funding for the police department. The city is asking the county to adhere to that until a new amount is negotiated.

Mayor Edna Jackson said she was taken by surprise by the county's proposal because it was drafted without input from city. Jackson says county residents do not have to pay city taxes, and she believes the agreement is a fair one.

“We’re doing two things: we’re paying city and county taxes, and it is our responsibility to make sure we are protecting the interest and welfare of those people that are here in our city.”

However, Scott said funding should be based on other factors including police call volume and crime statistics.

The draft also would give more power to the county in the hiring of the new police chief. It requires the county’s consent in hiring and other police matters. Scott said policy negotiations should conclude before the new chief is hired in September, but negotiations about funding for the department can continue until November 30th.

The City Attorney will review the draft before any decision is made. If the city and county cannot come to agreement for continuing to run a merged police department, Scott said the county will pursue other options.

“It’s not threats to the city; we have no choice," Scott said. "We could just simply enter into a contract arrangement with the City of Savannah to provide police service and not have a joint agreement.”