Scott County law enforcement agencies lose funding

Monday, January 5, 2009

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Law enforcement agencies, specifically those that fight drug abuse, are now feeling the pinch of the slumping economy.

The Scott County Sheriff's Department recently learned it will not receive the MoSMART grant provided by the Missouri Sheriff's Methamphetamine Relief Team. It was one of 17 agencies statewide turned down by MoSMART, including Stoddard and Perry counties.

Also cut for the 2009 fiscal year is the Byrne/JAG federal program, which is the chief funding for drug task forces around the county, according to Sgt. Kevin Glaser, supervisor of the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force.

"The current administration in Washington, D.C., has reduced funding to this program by 67 percent," said Glaser, noting the cuts are set to take effect July 1. "This equates to over a $4 million loss to the state of Missouri to operate the 26 drug task force units in the state."

The total project cost in 2008 was $240,873. The Byrne/JAG federal program provides 75 percent of cost, and the other 25 percent comes from contributions from participating agencies. The federal share of funds will drop from about $180,000 for the 2008 fiscal year, to about $59,000 for the year beginning July 1.

"But I'm still expected to keep things operating," Glaser said.

Other task forces and agencies around Missouri were turned down for the MoSMART grant.

"We just didn't have enough money to go around," said Karen Gramlisch, MoSMART executive administrator. Thirty-eight agencies applied for the grant, which covers 100 percent of the cost for a methamphetamine investigator.

Even Gramlisch was hit, when her co-worker was let go to help the grant dollars to go further. Those who approved the grants also looked at other corners to be cut in the applications -- overtime was eliminated, and some agencies that requested funds for two investigators received money for only one.

Gramlisch said that when determining what agencies would receive funding, they looked at the number of meth labs and chemicals seized, as well as the number of individuals arrested for anything meth-related between October 2007 and 2008.

"They looked at who had the most serious problem," she said.

Lt. Jerry Bledsoe of the Scott County Sheriff's Department said his department's statistics stayed about the same. The department received the same grant in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008, he said. "Probably the biggest reason that we didn't get it this year is not because of our stats, but because the money that was there last year isn't this year," he said.

In all, MoSMART had about $1.1 million to distribute this year, down about $800,000 from the money available in 2009, said Gramlisch. "We are asking governor-elect Nixon for emergency funding [to help fill the gap]," she said. If more money is received, the applications will be reviewed again.

Bledsoe said he hopes that will happen and the department will receive funding after all. "This happened one other time," he recalled. "But then later they came up with the money and we got it."

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