Stockbridge council approves counterproposal on police

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The Stockbridge City Council announced a counterproposal late last week to the most recent plan presented by Henry County government regarding police services in the city.

This latest proposal was approved by the council at a Jan. 7 special called meeting that included the three new council members, who reportedly took their oath of office a week prior although their official swearing-in was among the items for the Jan. 11 regular council meeting agenda.

The meeting was called to order by city clerk Vanessa Holiday, citing a city charter provision delegating that responsibility to her in the absence of a mayor and mayor pro tem. Mayor Tim Thompson resigned during a meeting in December and Mayor Pro Tem Alphonso Thomas left office at the end of the year following his election defeat.

There was an immediate call to convene in executive session, after which came the vote to approve a resolution containing the police proposal. Then the meeting was adjourned with no further comment.

The vote by new council members Elton Alexander, John Blount and Neat Robinson was surprising to some since the city has been promoting the scheduled swearing-in for the three to take place Jan. 11 at the start of the regular council meeting. Some speculated on social media as to whether the action or the meeting itself was even legal.

When asked later by the Times when he was sworn in, Alexander replied via text that he “took the oath Dec. 28.”

The hasty meeting schedule mirrors the city’s actions of two years ago. After previous mayor Mark Alarcon convened a special meeting Dec. 30, 2013, and the council passed some controversial actions, Thompson and new council members Anthony Ford and LaKeisha Gantt appeared on the dais at a meeting in early January, before the regular second Monday meeting, without any public indication of when they had been sworn in.

As for the police situation, the Henry County Board of Commissioners approved a proposal Dec. 1 that included payment from the city of $743,000 per year for the two additional officers in the city around the clock along with the regular level of service provided to the unincorporated portion of the county.

Noting that the county plan would mean a 48 percent increase in cost to the city, Stockbridge officials have countered with a proposal that would eliminate that payment to the county entirely and allow the city to contract with its own supplemental resources for added police protection.

“This new proposal agreement will continue to provide Stockbridge residents with extra patrols throughout the city, enhanced patrols at our parks and trail areas, and continued patrols of our commercial districts. This new alternate proposal would utilize contracted patrol services,” according to a statement released Jan. 8 by the city.

“Stockbridge residents currently pay Henry County taxes for Henry County Police protection, and that protection will continue at the same level of service for residents throughout the unincorporated area of Henry County. By adding these additional supplemental security services, the city of Stockbridge renews its commitment to ensuring that residents, businesses and those visiting our city, can feel safe and secure.”

Also, Alexander posted the following comment on Facebook and in a text to the Times: “For clarification the Henry County Police Department will remain the primary police force for the city of Stockbridge under the new proposed agreement along with the new security force patrolling Stockbridge for added protection. Residents in the city of Stockbridge will still call the Henry County Police Dept. for all police services.”

The proposal has been presented to the county for consideration, and county officials had not commented on it by press time.