Should the City of Hoschton create a police department?
That was the issues discussed Aug. 20 during a retreat meeting of the Hoschton City Council held at Brasstown Valley Resort in Towns County.
The council heard from Lavonia police chief Bruce Carlisle, Braselton chief Terry Esco and Jackson County Sheriff Janis Mangum about the town's options for a police department.
Mayor Shannon Sell said he wants Hoschton to host a town hall meeting of citizens to further discuss the need — and cost — of creating a department. Hoschton doesn't levy a property tax and its other income in the town is limited.
Hoschton disbanded its police department a decade ago amid financial turmoil. Since that time, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office has responded to calls in the city, backed up by the nearby Braselton Police Department for major incidents.
"Since we lost our police department, I don't think it's hurt Hoschton not one bit," Sell said.
But he also said that when he was campaigning for mayor, a lot of people expressed an interest in the town having a police department.
"Everybody wants it, nobody wants to pay for it," he said of the expense of a police department.
Esco warned the council that a police department will be expensive.
"If you want a police department, really and truly, you have to look at the revenue source (other than tickets)," he said.
Both Esco and Mangum said that if the council does create a police department, it should start small, perhaps with just a chief and a couple of part-time officers to keep costs down.
On the other hand, finding part-time officers is difficult and the cost per hour is high, Mangum said.
Several small towns in Jackson County only have part-time departments as well, Mangum said. Some operate limited hours during the day and the JCSO covers the territory at night.
In the background of the discussion is the fact that the massive Twin Lakes development is beginning to take shape in Hoschton. That development will eventually have nearly 3,000 homes.
"You're just about going to have to do something," Esco said of Hoschton's growth.
If the town does create a police department, it would also need to create a municipal court to handle the fines from the department. That is another expense which has to be considered.
The issue of restarting a town police department has been a major part of the town's current move to have impact fees on new construction in the town. Those fees would, in part, help pay for a police department facility, but not for startup or ongoing expenses.