By Paul Gable
As seems to happen every year, the Horry County Public Safety Division has asked for new radios for police and fire personnel and new video equipment for police.
The cost is projected at approximately $4.4 million over eight years, which is also the projected lifespan of the equipment.
The radios alone cost $4,500 each, ostensibly because our infrastructure supporting the radios dates back to 1991.
Council was told at its budget workshop earlier this week that the equipment that goes into police cars (radios, video equipment, computers, etc.) now costs more than the car itself.
Upgrading of the infrastructure that supports all of these electronic gadgets is currently scheduled to be discussed with next year’s budget. So watch out. If radios cost $4,500 each can you imagine what the Public Safety Department will want in the way of new infrastructure.
The decision on new infrastructure will also be costly to the cities since the cities are tied into the county emergency system.
For years, I have been of the impression that our county Public Safety division houses Inspector Gadget somewhere and council seems to get hit every year in a piecemeal approach for new gadgets.
We have a bomb robot whose only success I know of was blowing up a wave measuring device that was placed on a pier during a hurricane warning. The device was determined to be suspicious and the fact that it was placed there was ostensibly unknown despite our annual radio upgrade talks.
Equipment gets old and wears out. That cannot be refuted, but, do we need the latest in gadgets to replace it? To me, that seems to be what is happening in the county Public Safety Division.
The county election office wanted laptops to use with elections. According to information at the budget workshop, 69 laptop computers were moved from the county’s Emergency Operations Center to the election office.
That begs the question, how is it, if Public Safety staff is diligently studying its purchases, that 69 excess laptop computers were discovered that could be sent to the election office?
Council is currently struggling to find enough revenue to fund Sheriff’s deputies for the old courthouse and magistrate’s courts for on-site security purposes. But, we can spend $4,500 per radio?
The Sheriff’s Department is separate from the Public Safety Division because of Horry County’s also having a completely separate police department.
Maybe it’s time to seriously look at combining the two. From my observation over the years, Sheriff Philip Thompson does a great job of squeezing every penny for maximum effect. I don’t believe we get the same bang for the buck from our Public Safety Division.
Approximately 70% of all annual county budget expenditures go to support the Public Safety Division. Obviously, we need to have public safety, but we also need someone minding the store to make sure that the expenses we make are in line with efficient support of personnel, not necessarily the latest and greatest gadgets on the market.