Richmond County Sheriff Richard Roundtree on Tuesday announced his support for the upcoming tax package at a news conference, saying the measure enhances public safety.
Roundtree said the $194 million special purpose local option sales tax 7 package, which will be voted on May 20, will provide vital resources to curb crime.
“In the best interest of public safety, I support the current SPLOST package and strongly feel that we cannot afford to wait until November 2015 to revisit this issue,” he said, standing in front of the sheriff’s office headquarters, which was paid for with the sales tax revenue.
The 2014 package would provide $1.4 million to the sheriff’s office for in-car video systems, body cameras for deputies and a downtown video enhancement security system.
An additional $22.5 million would include replacing 280 patrol vehicles, replacing and maintaining 225 mobile data terminals in patrol vehicles and purchasing the sheriff’s office’s radio network.
“We currently, being the second-largest city and having the largest full-service sheriff’s office in the state, do not own and maintain our own radio network,” he said.
The sheriff’s office has paid $500,000 a year for the past 16 years to rent that air space.
Roundtree said that became an issue during the February ice storm, when the sheriff’s office lost radio communications twice. One time it was for 45 minutes. Each time, the sheriff’s office was put on a waiting list for restoration.
“Anytime without radio communication could literally mean the difference between life and death to the citizens of this community,” the sheriff said.
The $13 million purchase with the sales tax funding would free up money previously spent on rent.
Roundtree, who said the news conference was not politically motivated or associated with any political campaigns, acknowledged that there have been some concerns over this tax project and that it is “not the perfect package.”
“But if the current SPLOST does not pass, there is currently no other funding source to obtain the items I have listed, which are vital to the operations of the sheriff’s office,” he said.
Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who stood beside Roundtree during the news conference, said he was optimistic the package would pass. Only once has a package failed, but it was “over-bloated,” he said.
“We have got to get this passed,” Copenhaver said. “I think he (Roundtree) laid out how critical this is the public.”
Roundtree took no questions from the media after the news conference.