First understand this; the following is not an anti-law enforcement article. It shouldn’t, in any way, be mistaken as such. This is an issue of what is wanted versus what is needed.
At a recent Jefferson City Council meeting Police Chief Joe Wirthman made a statement about wanting a new building to house the Jefferson Police Department. Nothing more was said about it there. Later I noticed an article in the Jackson Herald where it was stated that the chief wants a new 2.5 million dollar building. I found this to be quite shocking. 2.5 million dollars for a police station in Jefferson, Georgia? Really? For what? Granted; the current building is in need of repair but it suits the purposes of the department quite well. I, for one, can’t imagine the necessity of a 2.5 million dollar building to house a department no larger than the Jefferson PD. Maybe I’m missing something so we will take a look at the department and see.
First; the department houses some 23(+-) employees total. There is no large gang or drug units that require additional space. As a matter of fact; there are no gang or drug personnel, period. There are two K9 officers, on duty only on day shifts, Monday through Friday who are supposedly the narcotics investigators for the city. The largest staff is on duty during normal business hours Monday through Friday. At nights and on weekends there are normally only three officers on duty at any time. The Investigations Division is mainly composed of two officers who, again, are on duty only during weekday working hours or on an “as needed” basis and are housed in a separate building adjacent to the pd building. No one is on duty at the PD itself during night-time or weekend hours. The city police department houses no inmates for its self. All arrestees are transported directly to the JCSO. Hardly a reason to spend $2.5 million for a building that is unoccupied for the majority of the time.
I could, maybe, understand the need for a new location if the department was expanding at a fast rate and was outgrowing its current location but such is not the case. Even with the addition of a few additional officers the current facilities should be more than adequate to house the Jefferson PD. The growth in Jefferson seems to have stemmed for the moment. We’re not exactly talking about a sprawling Metropolis here.
I see no reasons why the existing location can not be brought into a better state of repair for far less money than the expense of a completely new building. In today’s economy, when most public safety departments are cutting budgets to the bone, laying off employees, giving others mandatory furlough days, cutting retirement and other benefits, suffering through pay freezes, it is unthinkable that anyone could ask for 2.5 million in taxpayer dollars for something that is not absolutely necessary to the operations of the department. Why not first think of those employees who received only a three percent raise last year, or whose overtime pay has been taken away? Just appears to be a complete lack of logical thinking somewhere.
While the administration will say that parts of the monies could come in the form of grants or drug revenue forfeitures; let me say this. The word “grant” is just another word for tax money. Those funds didn’t just fall out of the sky nor did they grow on trees. As far as drug revenue forfeitures go; one simply needs to look at the departments seizure information to know that it would be next to impossible to fund any type of expansions or new buildings on the minimal amount of drug money seized by the JPD on a yearly basis. There is only so much that can be gleaned off of 85 or by ridiculous “road safety checks” when it comes to cash. Sure; even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then but 2.5 million is a lot of acorns.
Maybe it’s just me but I think someone really needs to take the rubber stamp away from our elected officials or, better yet, maybe we need to send a few folks packing and put a few people in office with a bit more common sense.