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Posted: 6:52 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013

Gwinnett SPLOST would fund school safety system

Gwinnett Police Chief Charles Walters
Gwinnett Police Chief Charles Walters

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Gwinnett County 911 center photo
Gwinnett County 911 center

By Sandra Parrish

If Gwinnett voters approve a renewal of the county’s one cent special purpose local option sales tax next month, some of that money will be used to improve emergency response times at the county’s 132 schools and the four schools in the city of Buford.

Commissioners have voted to spend up to $5 million on the emergency notification system that would be linked directly to the county’s 911 operations center. 

Gwinnett Police Chief Charles Walters says it would include a panic button as well as video cameras.

“The camera feeds will enable the 911 call takers to provide real-time information to first responders to a school incident,” he told reporters.

Walters says the idea emerged following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.  But he warned the project cannot go forward if the SPLOST is not renewed.

“The fact is, if we’re going to install a system, that’s the only way we can provide the funds to do that,” he says.

Of the $498 million the SPLOST is expected to generate, nearly $71 million is allocated for public safety. The largest chunk of that money will be spent on new equipment and vehicles for police, fire, EMS, and the sheriff’s department.

Typically commissioners do not approve projects until after the tax is approved by voters.  But a county spokesman tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish inquiries from the public prompted the commission to go ahead and approve those specific projects that had already been identified as part of public safety.

Bobby Crowson, Associate Superintendent for School Improvement and Support for Gwinnett Schools, says the emergency notification system is another way to ensure the safety of students.

“The fact we cannot have a police officer on every campus right now given the budget concerns we do have and the available resources, this… would be an incredible benefit to us,” he says.

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