During the same meeting, commissioners voted 4-1, with Lisa Cupid opposed, to create three new taxes that will help finance the proposed $672 million Braves stadium expected to open near the Cumberland Mall in 2017.
Commissioners also appointed Deputy Fire Chief Randy Crider as Cobb’s new fire chief in a vote of 5-0. Crider received a standing ovation from the audience after the vote.
About 235 residents turned out to Tuesday’s meeting and 110 of them were police officers, county spokesman Robert Quigley said.
Prior to the vote to add more police officers, police advocates such as Bill Mull, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge, warned commissioners the police department was in “a crisis situation” due to noncompetitive pay, turnover, low morale and a lack of equipment to do their jobs.
County Chairman Tim Lee pledged that the 40 additional officers was only a first step.
“Some of the concerns and comments that came forward were items that we have been reviewing in the last couple weeks under the direction of Sam Heaton and Chief Houser,” Lee said. “Today was the first step in response to those concerns and we will aggressively address the other open issues as quickly as we possibly can.”
The start-up cost for 40 officers in the first year of employment is $3.3 million.
After that, the annual cost is $2.7 million.
Start-up costs do not include a police car, but do include a gun, uniform, vest and radio.
Tax districts approved
Commissioner Cupid, who was also the lone vote against the memorandum of understanding between the county and the Braves in November, said her reason for voting against the tax districts had more to do with process than substance. The county had promised a communications plan about the Braves project and, in her opinion, failed to deliver on that promise.
Several residents complained about a lack of transparency over the proposal during the public comment portion of the meeting, among them Ben Williams of Mableton, president of the Cobb branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
One tax district that was created roughly follows the boundaries of the 5.5-square-mile Cumberland Community Improvement District. The new district will tax commercial property owners and apartment complex owners an additional 3 mills, bringing in $5.2 million a year.
A second code change allows for charging hotels and motels in the new district a fee of $3 a room per night. The $3 fee would generate $2.7 million annually.
A third code change enacts a county-wide 3 percent rental car tax expected to collect $400,000 annually.
“Now that we’ve approved these three items; we can move forward to developing the long forms as outlined in the MOU,” Lee said.