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Local police to get grants

BY REGINA ZILBERMINTS | MARCH 12, 2009 7:27 AM

Iowa City authorities are discussing how to spend almost $200,000 expected to be granted to the police through the federal Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program.

Though city officials still need to apply for the money, they could receive up to $192,831 for personnel, overtime, and equipment purchases as part of a statewide allocation of $18 million.

This year’s allocation is a significant increase over that of previous years. Iowa City police received $13,955 in 2008, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“This is a much larger sum than has been available in the past,” Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said. “We are exploring the options of what we can do with the money and how to go about qualifying and receiving that money.”

In the past, the money has been used to fund the Drug Task Force and to purchase equipment, officials said.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last week more than $2 billion in funding has been allocated to law enforcement nationally through the program for the next fiscal year. The grants are given annually, but this year, the money is part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was signed by President Obama on Feb. 17 and includes $4 billion for law enforcement.

“We’re at the early stages of reviewing the grant process. It’s hard to predict [where the money would go] at this point,” Iowa City police Capt. Rick Wyss said.

The state Department of Public Safety is slated to receive approximately $11.7 million, and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has been allocated $55,927.

Grant money for the Sheriff’s Office has decreased over the past four years before spiking this year, Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said. In the past, county officials used the funds to buy additional equipment, including two speed radar trailers — which measure and display driver’s speeds.

“It can act as a filler for local law enforcement to buy some of the things they aren’t able to,” Pulkrabek said.

Despite the amounts of the grants, officials said, they still have concerns. Beside still needing to get approval for their expenses, there is the question of whether getting more money from the federal government will mean a decrease in state funding, Kelsay said.

The Iowa City police already had to cut 1 percent from their $10 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

This will prevent the department from purchasing new squad cars and will likely cause an increase in costs the following year, Police Chief Sam Hargadine said.

The deadline to apply for the funds is March 30, though the date the allocations will be received is still undetermined.

“Any money is good money,” Kelsay said. “Especially with the economy and budget cuts.”


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