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Posted: May 31, 2012 8:51 p.m.

Council debates splitting fire, police

Social Circle will decide in the coming weeks how to restructure the internal organization of its Department of Public Safety for the next fiscal year.

The city council is choosing from two organizational structures which were presented by Director of Public Safety Tom Fox last Tuesday. Presently, the department oversees all police, fire and rescue operations with cross-trained personnel.

One option would put a lieutenant over the police and the fire divisions.

"What you've got is a lieutenant to be over police and then you have another lieutenant that would be over the fire division," Fox said in his presentation. "Both of those would report to the Director of Public Safety. This would be utilizing the 17 full-time people we have plus part-time people on fire."

A foreseeable problem of this option, Fox said, was it would run the police division short of one position.

Councilman Steve Shelton suggested requiring the drug interdiction officer to take a shift to help ease the burden.

However, Fox said the drug interdiction officer would be better off continuing his duties as is.

"As far as the drug interdiction officer goes, he's pretty much paid for himself," Fox said.

Since beginning his official duties in March 2011, the drug interdiction officer has confiscated $32,000 and stopped approximately $500,000 worth of drugs from being distributed, said Fox.

By working in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the city gets to keep 80 percent of monies confiscated to be used to purchase equipment and needed items for the police department.

Councilwoman Traysa Price said the police and fire lieutenants should both be required to work a shift to make up for the shortage of manpower.

"I think that would solve a lot of the [problem], to provide coverage and appropriate back up," Price said.

It would also keep the city's investment in the integration of the department, Price said.

"The city has put a lot of focus, time and money into the cross-training concept," Price said.

The second option the city is considering would split the police and fire divisions and put a chief over each.

Councilman David Keener said the second option was appealing because it streamlined the organization of both divisions and "increases the span of control in top positions."

"I like that better than having two or three people in the middle of the chain of command," Keener said. "It sort of leads to confusion about who you're suppose to go to and what you're suppose to do."

Social Circle Mayor Hal Dally said he wanted to know if it would cost more to have two chiefs or two lieutenants and a Director of Public Safety.

After comparing numbers, both Fox and City Clerk Susan Roper confirmed the salary cost of both options were similar.

Both options would still allow for the drug interdiction officer and a school resource officer. Under both options, police would continue to work 12-hour shifts and firemen would continue to work 24-hour shifts. Both options also allow the Public Safety Department to stay within and effectively use the $847,500 salary budget the council is tentatively allotted to the department for the 2013 fiscal year.

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