With almost five years since a pay increase for county employees, Cobb is losing members of its police force to other agencies, retired Deputy Police Chief Bill Mull told Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee during Monday night's town hall meeting.
There is a “great police department here, but we do have some problems,” said Mull, who spent 42 years on the force, retiring in 2008, and is the president of Cobb’s Fraternal Order of Police chapter.
He added: “We spend lots of money recruiting employees, we spend lots of money a year training them … and then we lose them to go to other agencies.”
Mull said new municipalities, like those in northern Fulton County, are “stealing our employees.” For Cobb, recent furloughs were “negative,” only guns were allocated for police in the most recent SPLOST list, drive-home cars aren’t available, and "morale is low," he said.
In this rough economy, county officials are “aggressively looking” for the right solution, said Lee, who became chairman after serving as the Northeast Cobb commissioner from 2002-2010.
“We can’t keep going on year after year after year after year without addressing the compensation package for everyone and expect good people to stay and feel good about what they’re doing,” he said before the crowd of about 100 citizens and officials at the West Cobb Senior Center.
Once the Citizen Oversight Committee submits its next report and the Cobb’s five-year Strategic Plan comes out at the end of the month, Lee said the county “can comprehensively look at what we have to permit and provide a meaningful employee compensation package that is realistic and takes into account our current economy.
“Each agency director around here will tell you that at least once a week, they’re having a conversation with someone who’s wondering when is it going to end … and why are government employees being kicked in the teeth.”
For a countywide raise of 1 percent, $4 million is needed, Lee said, adding that he and Mull will be meeting to further discuss the police force.
Other than briefly discussing Cobb's five-year Strategic Plan and EDGE program, Lee mostly let citizens talk and ask questions at Monday's meeting. Other issues discussed with Lee and other county officials include:
- One citizen said Dallas Highway is in “pretty rough shape.” Dan McDuff, deputy director of the Cobb Department of Transportation, agreed but noted that the road is cared for by the state. He said he’ll “put that bug in their ear again.”
- A Still Elementary parent expressed concerns about speeding on the road the school is located on, Casteel Road. Cobb Chief of Police John Houser said radar officers frequently target areas like school zones and crash-prone stretches, and that citizens can alert police to other roads where drivers speed.
- A man living in the condos across the street from the senior center said he and his neighbors recently took over the condo association from the developer. When they did, it was discovered that the developer hadn’t paid property taxes in four years. “Why was that allowed to continue if we need money? … How much of that goes on in this county?” the man asked. Lee said he wasn’t aware of the specific instance and that it was likely an “isolated incident, not pervasive” across the county. He noted that Cobb’s tax collection rate is above 99 percent.
Lee will hold three more town hall meetings over the next few months.
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