Regrettably, the Augusta Commission's public safety panel split 2-2 on accepting a $3.6 million federal grant that would add 68 new police officers to Sheriff Charlie Webster's force.
This means the proposal goes to the full Commission with no official recommendation because two commissioners -- Bill Kuhlke and Rob Zetterberg -- didn't want to give their OK without knowing where local matching funds would come from during the grant's three-year run.
We sympathize with their budget concerns, but as Webster points out, crime is rising in every area of consolidated Augusta! This comes when each police investigator is already carrying a staggering load of 200-250 cases a month.
The Commission must realize the first responsibility of local government is to protect its citizens from crime and violence. Give Webster the new officers he needs. They'll make our community safer.
To help pay for it, commissioners should look at cutting a significant number of city employees -- particularly those who hold duplicate jobs. We understand the consolidation legislation vowed there'd be no firings -- initially. But how long should this era of good feeling go on?
Not forever, we hope. After more than 1« years, it's time commissioners declare the promise has been kept and then start to get rid of some employee dead-weight.
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