Task Force feeling pinch

Published 6:48 pm Monday, October 5, 2009

By By Lisa Tindell
Feeling the crunch of the economy, the 21st Judicial Drug Task Force is looking for new options for funding.
The task force will share with Brewton and Atmore in a $28,153 grant from the Department of Justice. The money will help purchase surveillance equipment for the narcotics and investigation division and bulletproof vests for patrol officers, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a recent news release.
But with its operations budget cut last year when funding for drug task force programs across the country were cut, Forbes said money remains tight.
Forbes said the task force currently has seven full-time employees to work cases throughout the county.
Grants are awarded through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which provides funding for law enforcement agencies to implement programs that prevent and control crime based on their own identified needs. That money was cut significantly in 2008.
Forbes said the county has applied for grants from other agencies and groups to secure funding necessary to run the operation.
Tony Sanks, county administrator, will handle distribution of the funds to all agencies named in the recent grant award that Shelby announced.
Shelby said the approval of the grant is something many agencies depend on for funding.
In the 2009 fiscal year, the 21st Judicial Drug Task Force received needed funding from county coffers, the Byrne-JAG program and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Funding for the annual operation of the group was made possible through the Byrne-JAG grant for $80,000 with 10 percent matching funds from the county, $15,000 from the county with an additional $65,000 from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians last year. Current funding is a sizable cut back from the force’s original budget of $210,000 and the $140,000 received in 2008.
Sheriff Grover Smith said he has applied for stimulus funding in August to help bring more money to the task force. Sanks has said that money has not yet been approved, but he expects a positive response.

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