– Thursday, August 17, 2023 –

Correction: An earlier version of this newsletter identified Cpl. Doug Herron’s twin brother as the Savannah Police Department officer who died last week. Cpl. Doug Herron died on Aug. 11, 2023 after experiencing a medical episode.

A sheriff’s donation

Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump sits at his office on Sulphur Springs Road on Feb. 3, 2023. Credit: Jake Shore/The Current

Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump is receiving $160,000 as part of a “donation” from a company which charges telephone fees to people locked up in Jump’s jail.

The payment will cover two new pursuit vehicles, which Jump said replaces cruisers wrecked in a February chase and fills an immediate need. County commissioners call the payment a “donation” and are expected to approve changing Jump’s budget at a Thursday meeting.

But the “donation” is technically an advance payment from Pay Tel Communications, which has the telecommunications contract at the jail and provided around $330,000 in split fee revenues to the sheriff in 2022.

Jump said he sought this money from Pay Tel because the chase damaged three deputy vehicles.

“Those three cars had to be replaced. So (the commissioners) took them, those three, off of my budget this year,” Jump said. “That cut me short this year.”

Read here about transparency issues facing the “donation” and the politics between the sheriff and the county commission.

Quiet zone for Savannah trains

“Phase one” of Savannah’s designated train quiet zone is expected to go into effect in November 2023, silencing train horns from Habersham and 37th Streets up to East President Street near Truman Parkway. Blue circles mark railroad crossings that were improved with gates and lights, red circles mark crossings that were eliminated due to low-traffic use and yellow circles mark crossings that need improvements. Credit: City of Savannah

Many Savannahians are familiar with the city’s form of a rooster crowing alarm clock — the train horn.

Savannah has active train tracks cutting from East President Street to West DeRenne Avenue and in west Savannah neighborhoods. After over a decade of efforts to create a “quiet zone”, city officials are close to reaching half of their goal. By approximately November 2023, the city will institute a quiet zone for train horn sounding from Habersham and 37th Streets to East President Street near the Truman Parkway, according to the city manager’s office.

It silences train horns during all hours of the day in that two mile stretch. While providing relief for quality of life, it’s important to remember why horns exist for public safety.

Railroads have had locomotive horns or whistles since their inception as a universal safety precaution to let people know a train was swiftly approaching. Crossing arms, lights and sensors below train tracks developed to increase safety for those crossing train tracks.

Because of a 1970 federal law on railroad safety, Savannah had to satisfy specific requirements to qualify for a quiet zone. The city needed to ensure every railroad crossing had active warning signals. A study in 2012 revealed there were 10 crossings without any warnings. After a $1.5 million state grant in 2017, the city finished adding gates and lights at five of the 10 crossings in 2022 and closed down two with low-traffic usage.

The city is planning a phase two for its quiet zone after it adds safety measures to three more crossings, which includes its thorniest intersection to fix: Bull and Victory streets. Separately, Chatham County is conducting a feasibility study to remove railroad tracks from Woodville in west Savannah.

Data: EMS responses to heat illnesses

Responders load somebody into an ambulance (Stock image) Credit: pxfuel

This summer is the hottest on record due to climate change, and it’s meant more deaths from severe heat, according to federal officials. To better track these cases, the Biden administration released a new dashboard last week displaying data on EMS responses and transports for heat-related illnesses.

The goal of the EMS HeatTracker is to “inform local health departments and local emergency planners that they have an issue in their community, to help them get resources for tree planting or for cool roofs or for home weatherization,” according to John Balbus, acting director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. Balbus spoke as part of a report by our friends at The 19th.

All but one county along Georgia’s coast reported more heat-related EMS responses than the national average in the past 30 days, according to the tracker. Liberty County’s rate was lower than average.

An important statistical note from our data reporter, Maggie Lee: Bryan, Liberty, Glynn and Camden are smaller counties (below 100,000 people), meaning comparisons between them and national averages would be a false equivalency. Changes in smaller counties will be more outsized than ones in bigger counties.

Comparisons between Chatham County and the national average are fair, due to its size. The county has higher than average rates of the amount of time it takes EMS to get to a patient.

Check out the data for yourself here.

One more thing: Paying respects

Savannah Police Department Cpl. Doug “Twin” Herron died on Aug. 11, 2023 after experiencing a medical episode while on an off-duty assignment.

Savannah Police Department Cpl. Doug “Twin” Herron died on Aug. 11 after experiencing a medical episode while on an off-duty assignment.

“He was a career officer who devoted his life to our City and the Savannah Police Department,” Chief Lenny Gunther said. “We ask everyone to keep his family, friends and the SPD family in your thoughts and prayers as we mourn the loss of this member of our SPD family. He was compassionate, patient, and simply put, a great man – his legacy will live on.”

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Aug. 19 at the Calvary Baptist Temple located at Waters Avenue and 63rd Street at 11 a.m.

Cpl. Herron will have a public viewing from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., on Friday, Aug. 18, at Fox & Weeks Funeral Directors, Hodgson Chapel at 7200 Hodgson Memorial Drive.

Glynn jail phone provider gives sheriff $160K to replace wrecked cruisers

Glynn County Sheriff Neal Jump accepts a $160K payment by Pay Tel Communications, the company which charges telephone fees to people in his jail. The payment raises questions after disappearing from a county agenda and appearing in another without mentioning Pay Tel.

Continue reading…

Covid’s over but county jails still profit from virtual communication

Jails run by Coastal Georgia sheriffs collect more revenue from detainees trying to stay in touch with loved ones over phone, video or text messaging, while they still ban in-person visitation after Covid. Jails in Chatham and Glynn counties were the biggest earners on the coast.

Continue reading…

After hottest summer on record, heat-related illnesses are now being tracked nationwide

A new federal tracker shows how data on heat-related illness, responses by EMS and transportations to hospitals in the U.S. It’s intended to inform the public to guide potential solutions.

Continue reading…

Chatham jail changes rules on attorney visits after public defender outcry

Chatham County Sheriff changes rules to allow attorneys more access to people in the jail, after the public defender’s office complained Covid restrictions blocked them from reasonable access to indigent client.

Continue reading…

How urban residents can adapt to rising heat

As man-made climate change intesifies urban heat islands, city dwellers need to adapt.

Continue reading…

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Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Prior to joining The Current, Jake worked for the Island Packet and...