DAWSON COUNTY, Ga. – Sheriff Jeff Johnson must have felt like he had walked into a minefield when he presented a request for more staffing during Thursday’s Board of Commissioners work session. He was met by a commission chairman, who not only questioned the need for additional staffing, but the overall efficiency of Johnson’s operation.
Chairman Billy Thurmond pointed out that Lumpkin County Sheriff’s Office serves a larger population (Approx. 33,000) than Dawson with only 96 employees and a budget of $5.8 million. Pickens County serves a population of 32,591 with 94 employees and a budget of $7.6 million while the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office serves a smaller population (26,108) with 122 employees and a budget of $8.4 million.
Thurmond also pointed out that Dawson County spends more dollars per capita on law enforcement than even larger counties like Hall, Forsyth County and Cherokee. Dawson County citizens spend $324.86 per person compared to Hall $209.21, Forsyth 213.21 and Cherokee $183.41.
Johnson’s overall budget in 2017, his first year in office, was $7,687,803. The overall budget today including all phases of public safety is $10,245,376, an increase of 25 percent in four years.
Commissioner Tim Satterfield also questioned Johnson’s spending. “At the end of last year, you took $330,000 from your employees’ salaries and benefits and spent it on stuff when you could have put people on the roads.”
Johnson bristled at the push back he received and addressed the chairman, saying, “You refuse, you preach and you say time and time again that public safety is an obligation. It is number one. But you’re not proving it by your actions.”
Thurmond’s response: “To say that this Board has not taken on the primary responsibility of public safety is absolutely not a true statement and I won’t stand here and let you say that it is without challenging you on it.”
Also on Thursday’s work session agenda, Public Safety Director Danny Thompson provided a brief overview of the Local Emergency Operations Plan that outlines five emergency support functions. The plan must be updated every four years to remain in compliance with Georgia Emergency Management Agency regulations and to be eligible to receive grant funds.