Poarch Creek Indians Fund Additional Public Safety Services

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By Catalina Trivino

We're days away from the opening of Wetumpka's Windcreek Casino and city and county officials say with more visitors coming into town, they'll need more resources to ensure public safety -- but some residents are weary about where the money for these services is coming from.

Mayor Jerry Willis says public safety is their number one priority, as Wetumpka gets closer to opening its Windcreek Casino. The Wetumpka City Council authorized an agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians (PCI), who are funding the casino, to improve fire protection for the city. That $920,000 for a new fire truck, along with more equipment, fire gear and renovating the fire station. The city is also hiring more firefighters.

"The fire protection for PCI is a little different because it's a high-rise building, but our people are trained and skilled and have the knowledge of this, so it's just been a lot of work put in to get ready for this," Said Willis.

PCI has given more than $1 million to the Elmore County Commission to build a new Emergency Operations Center, which will house the county's Emergency Management Agency, and its 911 dispatch center.

"We were fortunate to use the circuit clerk's cafeteria room to move a lot of our 911 equipment to... and since that time that's been outdated," Said Elmore County Sheriff, Bill Franklin.

"It seems like gambling money to me," Said Wetumpka resident, Errol Holloman, who told us he doesn't like where the money is coming from.

"It may be adding in one sense, but in another sense it's taking away from families, people not paying their bills."

Another resident, Elizabeth Puckett, opposes the casino in the area, but she says the extra resources are a necessity.

"The fact is it's here. Therefore, we do need the support systems in place for the increased volume of visitors," Said Puckett.

Other residents tell us as long as the city and county aren't using tax-payer money, they don't have a problem making improvements to these services. Mayor Willis and Sheriff Franklin say they want to learn from the coming months ahead to see if they need any additional resources and they'll make improvements to services as needed.

The additional firefighters must be hired by the casino's opening. The new firetruck will be ready to use in the coming weeks.

The Emergency Operations Center is set to open in about a year.