Task force continuesLouisa County unsure of how much it can contribute to force
During a special meeting of the Washington/Louisa Drug Task Force, Louisa County Sheriff Brad Turner said that he is unsure how much money he can secure to be part of the task force, but said the county is still interested in participating.
Turner said that in discussions with the Louisa County Board of Supervisors, he believes the board members would prefer to use the money to hire a full-time drug officer for the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office.
“I don’t think I am going to get the money for it,” he said. “The budgets aren’t final and probably won’t be until mid-March, but the money is not there. I don’t think it will be.”
Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar asked if there was any figure that Louisa County could afford to contribute. Turner said this is the first time that the possibility of Louisa County being able to pay less than the projected yearly amount per agency had come up. Task force funding is projected to be $15,000 per agency for the next fiscal year.
Turner said he did not know how much could be secured for Louisa County’s share. He said the supervisors feel that with funding at $30,000 between the Louisa County sheriff’s office and the Columbus Junction Police Department, that money would go a long way toward getting Louisa County its own drug officer.
Dunbar said that other options are available to fund the task force if Louisa County decides not to participate. He said that there is a possibility of going in with another county. He said there would be a discussion on this possibility later this month. He also said another option would be for Washington County to fund the task force 100 percent. The Washington County Sheriff’s office and the Washington Police Department are both members of the task force.
“I know the community is behind (the task force),” Dunbar said. ‘The question is whether the supervisors will approve it.”
Funding for the task force has been discussed for the last three years, Dunbar said, after rumors began that federal funding would be cut to local drug task forces. He said during this fiscal year, federal funding made up about $35,000. Dunbar said that grant requests for the federal money are ranked, and the number of drug arrests has kept the Washington/Louisa task force in the running. Dunbar said the discussion of Louisa County pulling out of the task force first came up about six months ago and funding for that eventuality has been discussed since. This year, a 35 to 45 percent cut in federal funding is projected.
Turner said when the task force began in 1996, Louisa County’s amount was paid for with forfeiture funds and wasn’t a budget item. Last year it was a $9,000 budget item for his department.
“The cost has jumped so dramatically over the last few years,” he said.
Deputy Eric Weber is the task force officer. While he works in both counties, he is housed in Washington County. Dunbar said after the budgeted task force funds, Washington County provided such things as Weber’s vehicle, fuel, cell phone and non-wage benefits.
All the task force members agreed that Louisa County could use a full-time drug officer.
During the meeting, several officers mentioned that the federal funding for the task force might not even exist in two years.
Columbus Junction Police Chief Donnie Orr said that his office supports Louisa County getting its own officer.
Dunbar said that the goal is to join a regional task force after this coming fiscal year.
During a previous meeting, Weber reported that during this quarter heroin and crack cocaine were new to the area. He said that meth use numbers are still going up, while cocaine use is going down.