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Commission chairman stresses communication, planning at annual Tourism Leadership luncheon

Planning, partnerships and willingness to adapt to change are a few of the things Al Scott, chairman of the Chatham County Commission, has focused on since being elected three years ago.

“Government isn’t good at planning. Trust me. I know... But without planning we’re headed for two things — layoffs and tax increases,” he said Wednesday at the Tourism Leadership Council’s monthly luncheon at the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort and Spa on Hutchinson Island.

Scott laid out several issues that are driving him to run for re-election as well as several things he’d like to get done in a second term — even though he stressed that he wasn’t at the event to campaign for himself.

Scott will face challenger Tony Center for the chairmanship of the commission in a May 24 primary election.

Speaking on the recently finalized city and county police merger, Scott defended his decision to veto a move last year that would have ended talks between the two governments and said public safety remains one of his priorities.

“Had I not vetoed it, there would have been no further negotiations, not only with the existing administration, but no negotiations with the new administration,” he said. “I felt it was critical that I veto it, and that’s what I did.”

Scott also said a utilization study is underway to determine what the police staffing level should be in unincorporated Chatham and within the city of Savannah.

“As the chairman of the County Commission I would say that you need a lot more officers than 100,” he said referring to the recent announcement that the Savannah-Chatham police department had added 100 new officers, which means the force is fully staffed for the first time in 16 years.

He said it’s important to remember that the police presence is necessary, in part, because of the millions of tourists who visit the city each year as well as those who travel to the area each day for work.

“I say that to emphasize the fact of planning. There was never any planning in place to address the influx of tourists that we enjoyed and benefited from — and because of no planning, it’s here and we haven’t responded,” he said.

“Planning is critical and crucial, and those are the things I want to continue as chairman.”

He also said local government should focus on issues that will enhance the life of average citizens.

“Do we need more restaurants, more green space? Do we need an arena located on Gwinnett Street? What is it that we need?” he said. “Do we need to build something that’s just going to sit there and be a weekend destination? I say not. And so that’s the reason we need to plan.”

Scott also hopes to see the construction of a new Chatham County Courthouse in the future.

“I don’t live to participate in politics, but (public safety) is an important initiative,” he said. 

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