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Posted: June 16, 2012 8:18 p.m.

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Social Circle still divided on public safety

The Social Circle city council was presented with a third option on how it can restructure the internal organization of the Department of Public Safety for the next fiscal year.

The third option would save the city around $50,000, said Tom Fox, director of public safety, byseparating both police and fire employees into three teams, which would each work 24-hour shifts on a rotating basis.

Each team would consist of four full-time employees. Two employees would stay in the station at all timesm while the third employee would be on patrol and the fourth would serve as back up.

The first option would put a lieutenant over the police and the fire divisions, keeping the Department of Public Safety whole. The second option would split the police and fire divisions, putting a chief over each department.

Fox said the third option has the potential to save the city even more money than the $50,000 estimate.

"It's probably going to be more than that because you have less vehicle maintenance," Fox said. "You'd be reducing your number of vehicles. You'd be sharing vehicles. You'd be saving fuel. You'd be saving in overtime. You would actually have a full shift of full-time people. This is not utilizing part-time people."

The third option would eliminate the take-home program for patrol cars, further saving the city on maintenance costs.

Many of the council members were concerned about how the third option would be received by the employees. While Fox said a formal consensus had not been taken, informal talks showed employees were OK with the third option.

However, Fox said the council has to make an ultimate decision that may not reflect what the majority wanted.

"At some point, you have to determine what's best for the city," Fox said. "If Ford Motor Company decides they're going to change their product, they're not going to go out and ask their assembly line crew if they want another kind of mechanism on an engine. They're going to send down an order."

Councilman David Keener said he was not in favor of option one since the internal structure has not worked for the last seven years since merging the departments in 2005.

However, Fox said he thought it was unfair to say that it hasn't worked for seven years.

"If you look at the history if, it was never ran as a true public safety department," Fox said. "It was run in two separate divisions. That's what you've been doing. Only until last year did we try to actually combine them together."

Councilwoman Angela Porter suggested turning the police department back over to the county.

"I do not see our officers patrolling," Porter said. "And I am here all day long...I've got a better option - option number four. We [should] keep our fire department and send our police officers back to the county."

However, Social Circle Mayor Hal Dally said the Sheriff's Office was already stretched thin and wouldn't have enough officers to fulfill the contract.

The council requested that Fox go back to the department and get a formal consensus of the employee's thoughts on the third option. Fox will rely the consensus at the council next meeting.

All three options allow the Public Safety Department to stay within and effectively use the $847,500 salary budget the council has tentatively allotted to the department for the 2013 fiscal year.

The next Social Circle city council meeting is Tuesday, June 19 at 6:30 p.m.


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