“We’re in the process of receiving the weapons now,” said Heaton, the county’s acting public safety director.
The county spent $500,000 on the weapons with Clyde Armory, Heaton told the county’s Citizen Oversight Committee during an update on $11.4 million in 2011 SPLOST public safety expenses.
“Most officers carry some form of rifle … in their vehicle,” Heaton said, noting it was important for police to have the firepower that is able to match whatever they encounter.
The previous rifles were military surplus and had worn out, he said.
The rifles come with a carrying case, harness and scope.
Of the $11.4 million earmark, $9 million is allocated for 16 public safety vehicles, including two ladder trucks that cost about $1 million each.
“If you’ve got somebody on the third or fourth floor, you can run your ladder truck up to them,” Heaton said. “We used them quite a bit at the Holiday Inn fire to rescue people out of the windows. Also if you have the big fires say in an apartment building with fire literally coming through the roof, you need big water to put out a big fire, and those ladder trucks standing up above a fire can pump about 2,000 gallons per minute.”
Other vehicles include 7 engines, which cost about $500,000 each.
“An engine truck’s primary responsibility is first and foremost to transport the firefighters quickly and safely to the scene, and then once on the scene they are the primary resource for pumping water from the water system hydrant to the fire,” he said.
“We try to get anywhere from 10 to 15 years out of a front line engine,” Heaton said. “We try to get 15 to 20 out of a ladder truck.”
The trucks are then held in reserve for five years in the event one of the front line vehicles doesn’t work before being surplused.
Other vehicles include five rescue trucks, which are smaller life-support trucks that carry nearly everything an ambulance does.
“It’s an F-450 crew cab, but on the back is a utility box for equipment,” Heaton said.
The remaining two vehicle purchases include an air and light truck, which contains a compressor that can fill the air packs of firefighters as well as a light tower to light up the scene of an incident. The last vehicle is an air truck, essentially an F-450 with a box on it that carries the air bottles to the scene.
The $9 million earmark also include upgrading one of the county’s Hazmat trucks, as well as 18 manual defibrillators at $30,000 each, extrication equipment such as jaws of life, and 42 thermal imaging cameras costing about $10,000 each.
Deputy Chief Randy Crider said the cameras have multiple uses.
“If Hazmat calls, you can tell the fluid level in a 55-gallon drum. (If you’ve) got hazardous material in a creek, it will show that,” Crider said.
Crider said the cameras are also used when looking for missing people.
Murray Homan, who was appointed to the committee by Commissioner Woody Thompson, referenced DeKalb County’s recent problems with its air packs, asking if Cobb uses the same brand DeKalb does.
Heaton said Cobb replaced its air packs at a cost of $19 million three years ago.
“We’re using a brand called Scott, which is probably one of the most popular brands in the fire service,” Heaton said.
DeKalb was using packs made by Draeger.
The remaining $1.9 million is being used to upgrade the 911 centers at Cobb Police Headquarter off North Marietta Parkway, as well as in the cities of Kennesaw, Acworth, Austell and Smyrna and the Cobb Water System.
“They were outdated to the point where even the manufacturers were no longer going to be supplying parts,” Heaton said. The earmark also includes a repeater system for the county jail that improves radio communication in that area.
“What this does is it really keeps us right on track of our plan on equipment and apparatus replacement,” Heaton said. “If you get behind a couple years, it would take a lot of money to catch everything back up. In my opinion, this really keeps us able to provide the services that we’ve been able and to keep it going for the future.”
Without the SPLOST dollars, Heaton said there was no way to fund the public safety expenses.
“You’d have to raise taxes or you run much older, less reliable equipment,” he said. “I don’t want that for our citizens, and I don’t what that for our people.”
The 2011 SPLOST is expected to collect $492 million before expiring on Dec. 31, 2015.