Sugar Hill to vote on whether to establish police department

SUGAR HILL - City Hall was recently defaced by graffiti. Street signs in the city have been tagged with gang logos. E. E. Robinson Park has suffered vandalism. Is it time for Sugar Hill to establish a police department?

That question will be presented to residents in the Nov. 6 election.

Sugar Hill city councilmen voted unanimously Monday to let its roughly 17,000 residents decide whether they are ready to support a police department.

Sugar Hill officials are looking to Milton and its police department as a model. Officials figure on needing a 17-member police force, including administrative personnel, which would cost taxpayers about $1.5 million to $2 million annually. The proposed department would raise only about one-third of its own revenue, so a tax increase would be needed to support it, City Manager Bob Hail said. To generate that much revenue would require raising the millage rate an additional 3.85 mills, more or less, said Hail.

Sugar Hill's current millage rate is 3.8 mills, Mayor Gary Pirkle said.

For several years, Sugar Hill has hired off-duty police officers to patrol its streets. This year the city will spend $170,000 for that service.

Although Gwinnett is doing a good job of expanding its police department, Pirkle said, he wants Sugar Hill's taxes to fund patrols in North Gwinnett.

"We have asked Gwinnett County for increased patrols (in Sugar Hill), and they have increased them some," Pirkle said. "Charles Bannister has raised the overall police department but we believe our taxes are subsidizing South Gwinnett."