On Jan. 21, the Kennesaw City Council unanimously voted 5-0 to authorize the Kennesaw Police Department to purchase two new patrol cars from Mountain View Ford for $94,410.
“We work real hard to make sure they have what they need,” Mayor Mark Mathews said.
The price tag was the lowest of three bids that were able to meet the specifications outlined in the contract, said Chief of Police Bill Westenberger.
Westenberger said the patrol cars face wear and tear from officers working 12 hours shifts for 14 days a month.
“A fleet ages so we have to continue to replace cars,” Westenberger said.
The Kennesaw Police Department will most likely retire two cars from the existing fleet of 48 marked patrol cars.
Last year, Westenberger said the department bought two cars and retired four cars.
“We try to get as much life out of them in a safe way,” Westenberger said.
The patrol cars are not the only recent addition to the Kennesaw Police Department.
In the past two years, Westenberger said Kennesaw has filled 10 officer positions. The Kennesaw Police Department has 80 employees, including corrections officers, records clerks, administrative assistants, and 67 sworn police officers.
There are still three open positions in the Kennesaw Police Department, which has an annual operating budget of $4.6 million, Westenberger said.
Mathews said it is important for the City Council to “preserve the police department.”
“They are the face of the city to a lot of residents,” Mathews said.
Kennesaw jail renovations
The Kennesaw Police Department and the city jail are both located at City Hall, a block west of Main Street.
The 25-year-old jail is being renovated with a budget not to exceed $800,000.
Kennesaw Police Department has received applications to fill the contractor position for the project. Westenberger said he hopes to present the department’s recommendation to the City Council next month.
The jail renovations should start in the next 30 days, Westenberger said. The interior upgrades should take three months, then the bidding process will start for the exterior renovations.
The improvements to the police station will be paid for with funds obtained through the “asset forfeiture program” which is a federal law that allows police to seize a person’s property whenever they believe it could be connected to drug activity. The money can be seized even if no charges are filed against the person whom it belongs to.
These cash seizures often involve local police working as part of a federal task force, Westenberger said.
A Kennesaw officer is assigned to a federal task force and a portion of the money collected in the busts is given to each jurisdiction participating.
Westenberger said the jail renovations will include buying a replacement generator that would be able to provide power in case of an outage. There will also be plumbing and security upgrades.
The maximum holding capacity of the jail is 30 inmates. That number will not increase after the renovations.
Westenberger said inmates are booked and housed at the Kennesaw jail for offenses committed in the city, such as traffic offenses, like driving under the influence or driving with a suspended license.
If the suspect commits a felony, the inmate is transported to the Cobb jail. Inmates are also transported if they will be tried in state court.
A rise in thefts
Westenberger told the City Council on Jan. 21 that after a 10-year low, Kennesaw has seen an increase in crime.
The rise in crime has mostly been car break-ins and other petty crime.
Westenberger said in December there were 102 arrests, with two aggravated assaults and the rest burglary or larceny cases.
Kennesaw State University, which sits just outside of Kennesaw’s city limits, has been growing in student population and also adding more buildings to its campus.
Westenberger said any time there is growth the police department must think of the broad picture.
“(KSU) plays a part, but we have a city of over 30,000 people, and that is just part of the responsibility we have,” Westenberger said.
Mathews said it is important to have enough officers on the street to provide a high quality of life and serve Kennesaw residents.
“As the economy continues to grow and redevelopment happens, it increases the number of officers needed to meet the standards we expect in the city,” Mathews said.