The Statesboro Police Department plans to open a substation adjacent to the Georgia Southern University campus in the Paulson Stadium area, and City Council approved rental agreements Tuesday to make it so.
In fact, the city is renting two different sites along Chandler Road for a single police substation for 18 months beginning Jan. 1. Property Mart owner Lisa P. Hodges is to provide a temporary building for six months followed by a permanent building for 12 months at an aggregate cost of $54,600.
Police Chief Mike Broadhead credited outgoing Mayor Jan Moore for the substation idea.
“The mayor had an initiative to make a bigger footprint, if you will, for the Police Department in a neighborhood where I think there was a perception that maybe we’re driving through but not necessarily staying in the area enough,” Broadhead told the council. “We get a lot of calls from parents of GSU students wanting to know what we’re doing to protect their kids at the campus.”
The two lease agreements, city officials said, will allow for an 18-month pilot project. The temporary building to be placed at the Malecki Drive-Chandler Road intersection will serve as the substation for six months. Then it will move to the permanent building up the street at 1800 Chandler Road, currently the Property Mart office.
Georgia Southern University police will also have access to the substation.
“We’re not planning to staff it 24 hours a day, but the idea would be that we’re there, we have a presence,” Broadhead said. “The GSU officers could also use that. It would be a place for us to meet with the public in that neighborhood, to do witness statements, or they could report a crime there as opposed to coming down to the Grady Street police station.”
The goal is to reduce crime, and the pilot project will test whether having a substation in this area, which has a high volume of foot traffic as well as vehicular traffic, makes a difference, he said.
Moore announced the substation idea in October after the council approved a 1-mill property tax increase in September primarily to fund an increase in the Statesboro Police Department’s starting wages for officers.
But council members indicated that they would be comfortable with using some of the funds for other public safety purposes. The tax hike has been projected to net $647,000 in revenue, so with the police pay raise package projected to cost $442,000, roughly $200,000 would be left from the rate hike for a 12-month period.
The $54,600 substation rental cost is for an 18-month span. The city is first to pay Hodges $2,500 a month from January through June 2018 to provide a temporary building that she is to have installed by Jan. 1 or soon after at the Malecki-Chandler corner, which City Attorney Cain Smith noted is currently a vacant lot. Under the second rental agreement, the city will pay Hodges $3,300 a month from July 2018 through June 2019 for the 1800 Chandler Road building.
“The constant concern out around the university – it’s there, I mean it’s not made up – there is a tremendous amount of concern by parents, et cetera …,” Moore said to the council and audience. “So if we put a presence there, and become a comforting presence, which is what we’d like to be, versus a targeting presence, that’s what we’re trying to achieve, to let folks know that we’re out there to help.”
“Now, do we know if this is going to work? No,” she continued. “Do we know what the impact is going to be? We don’t. But that’s part of governance. You’ve got to give stuff a shot, and that millage rate increase that council supported will allow us to do that.”
The substation will also require some additional staffing, Moore said after meeting.
Council’s vote approving the rental agreements was 4-0, with Councilman John Riggs absent.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.