Note: This story has been updated.
Just as the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office is looking to hire more deputies now, the agency is also looking to add more to its ranks down the road.
The Board of Commissioners approved DCSO's request to apply for a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) federal grant during their May 5 voting session.
At that evening's work session, DCSO Maj. Greg Rowan explained that his agency wants to take advantage of the COPS grant to hire certified law enforcement officers.
DCSO’s efforts to hire come amidst local and national focuses on law enforcement in recent years and a shortage of officers throughout police agencies.
“This is one of the best [such] opportunities we’ve had in a while,” Rowan said. “Hopefully, if things go well…we’ll apply for four positions, which will give our four shifts one additional staff member.”
As of the meeting, Rowan estimated that there are seven open DCSO positions.
If awarded, the COPS grant would cover up to 75 percent or three quarters of the deputies’ salaries and benefits, a maximum of $125,000 each over a three-year period. There would be a minimum 25 percent local cash match, and officers obtained would have to stay on with DCSO for at least a year.
When District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines asked about the equipment cost for adding those deputies, Rowan clarified that the grant would not cover gear like “ballistics, badges and vests”, an additional cost between $30,000 and $50,000, and added that SPLOST funds could help cover vehicles.
If DCSO receives the COPS grant, funding is expected to arrive sometime this coming fall, after the end of the federal government’s fiscal year.
Gaines commented that the board “would have to prepare for a big absorption” ahead of the grant’s expiration at the end of its three-year period.
More prep required for War Hill Park updates
Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne told the board that a master plan and environmental assessment is required before any work can begin to add to War Hill Park.
The board approved Payne’s request for approval to pursue the two-pronged project at a cost of $124,230.
Dawson County leases its use of the Lake Lanier-area park from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, so any potential changes must be approved by them.
This past fall, the BOC approved glamping sites at the park, and since then, Payne said his department has learned “a great deal” about what’s required for changes “as simple as running electrical to four campsites”.
Among the stipulations, the environmental assessment requires background and historical research as well as field evaluation for stream and wetland habitats as well as indication of any threatened or endangered species.
A master plan must show both the park’s existing conditions and its new footprint, which would be created following public meetings and input and submission to the Army Corps.
The playground and additional park trails were already approved as part of the SPLOST VII projects, but those cannot be funded until after the completion and approval of the environmental assessment and master plan.
Gaines called it “painful” to “turn around and have to do this” in the course of managing an asset like War Hill Park.
Chief Financial Officer Vickie Neikirk recommended taking the money for Payne’s request out of the general fund since the first part of SPLOST VII funds are to be used for the forthcoming emergency communications center.
District 3 Commissioner Tim Satterfield pointed to these potential improvements as being a future revenue generator for the county.
Recently, glamping sites became available at Amicalola Falls State Park, which is in but not managed by the county. The same company, Timberline Glamping, approached the board this past fall about having sites at War Hill Park. They currently also have sites at Shady Grove Campground on the Forsyth County side of Lake Lanier.