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Funds cut for drug task force

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Harrison County's multi-jurisdictional Drug Task Force will have to track down illegal narcotics with a smaller budget next fiscal year.

Task force officials received word this week that for the year starting July 1, the unit will receive $139,600; about $40,000 less than last year, said Michael Cutlip, director of programming for the state Office of Criminal Justice Services.

The Harrison and Lewis county sheriff's offices and the Clarksburg and Bridgeport city police departments contribute a total of seven officers to the task force.

They all will receive less money for the new year.

"For some departments, this will be a burden," a task force official said. "They have already submitted their budgets for the year, and then they don't receive some of the money they're expecting."

Some officials do not believe the reduction will seriously affect the unit's work.

"I don't think it will have an immediate impact," Bridgeport Police Chief Jack Clayton said. His department will receive about $14,000 less through the new grant.

"We've been faced with this possibility for a few years now," Clayton said. "At some point in the future, the agencies are going to have to look at self-funding the task force."

In addition to the federal funds, the counties and cities contribute a total of $79,292, Cutlip said. Task force officials can ask the local governments to increase their shares to make up for the shortfall.

Some law enforcement officials already are planning to make such requests. Lewis County Sheriff Robert Rinehart said that on Monday, he will ask his county commission for additional funding.

Lewis County's portion of the grant was cut by about $17,000, he said.

Grants originate with the federal Department of Justice, but are distributed by the state Office of Criminal Justice Services, Cutlip said. That office allots the cash to the state police and drug task forces.

Although local task force officials received no information about why this year's grant is smaller, Cutlip said the reason is simple.

"Resources are limited," he said.

Federal budget cuts for the program means less cash for the program, he said. This year, the state received a total of about $2 million for the program, he said.

Although the grant was cut this year, it still is more than the local unit used to receive, Harrison County Sheriff Wayne Godwin said.

"We started out with no grants," he said.

His department's grant was cut by about $2,800 this year, he said.

Harrison County's task force started in 1985 with the sheriff's office and Clarksburg police, Godwin said. It soon expanded to include Bridgeport and Lewis County.

At one time, the Upshur County Sheriff's Department was part of the unit, but has since stopped participating, he said.

Each year's grant allotment is calculated based on a number of criteria, Cutlip said.

"It's based on the number of officers, the level of crime in each area, how much was requested -- a lot of different factors," he said.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.

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