Police aim at grants for additional funding

BY ABE TEKIPPE | JULY 09, 2009 7:21 AM

Iowa City police Capt. Rick Wyss had a specific goal before leaving the office on Wednesday. He wanted to submit his department’s application for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant.

With the Iowa City police facing significant budget cuts, grants such as the justice-assistance funds are becoming more important than ever before.

Each year, the department goes through several “time-consuming” application processes to apply for — and hopefully receive — grants, mostly from the U.S. Department of Justice, Wyss said.

The government often notifies law-enforcement agencies when grants are available, but that isn’t always the case.

“We’ve always been under the mandate of constantly looking for grant opportunities and seizing every potential grant dollar,” Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said. “Most of these are competitive-type grants.”

While officials said grants can help alleviate budget shortfalls, like those that may result from the department’s $100,000 slash, receiving the money isn’t a guarantee.

“What you cannot do is budget around [grant money],” Hargadine said. “It’s nice when you get it, but you can’t count on it.”

Still, the department applies each year for the Justice Assistance Grant in conjunction with other local agencies. And every year, the U.S. Department of Justice tells agencies how much money for which they are eligible to apply.

If the agencies apply for the grant, they generally receive the money, Hargadine said.

This year was unique for local law-enforcement officials because they were able to apply for two Justice Assistance Grants: a one-time grant in May that was part of the federal stimulus package and the annual grant in July.

The one-time grant awarded the Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty police, along with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, almost $300,000 to be spent in the immediate future. Nearly two-thirds went to Iowa City police, which, Wyss said, they hope to spend on two new patrol cars, equipment, and overtime.

“[Funds for overtime pay] would allow us to direct increased patrols to areas where we are experiencing higher levels of violence — for example, downtown,” Wyss said.

He filled out the combined application for all four agencies because his department has the most populous jurisdiction.

Unlike the one-time grant, the annual grant — roughly $60,000 this year — involves only Iowa City police and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, and it may be spent over the course of several years.
Iowa City police will receive 52 percent of the grant.

Wyss said both departments plan to jointly spend the money on equipment for a firearms range that will be constructed in the area.

“The sheriff and I have been committed to this range project for a number of years,” Hargadine said, noting that the two departments currently use the Cedar Rapids police range for training. “We are working toward the acquisition of a police training facility that numerous jurisdictions would use and share.”

The department isn’t the only agency in Iowa City that seeks grant money.

The Fire Department, for example, applied for an Assistance to Firefighters grant on July 7, which would be used to construct a fourth fire station on the North Side.

The Iowa City Public Library, Iowa City landfill, Iowa City Housing Authority, and other groups also apply for grants regularly, said Steve Long, Iowa City’s community-development coordinator.

Funds available from grants fluctuate year to year, he said.

Municipal groups “are always looking for the opportunity of outside funding,” he said. “It helps our local dollars go further.”

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