Council asks for drug task force funding

Not only is the federal government cutting funds to rural drug task forces, it's dipping into that pot for other expenses, and Northwest Colorado's drug task force is suffering.

As legislative committees consider appropriations for the next round of funding, the Craig City Council and Moffat County commissioners are working to influence the final decision.

What: Craig City Council meeting

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: City Hall, 300 W. 4th St.

Details: Agenda items include approving a letter encouraging more federal support for rural task forces, The Memorial Hospital update and first approval of the 2006 budget.

A its meeting Tuesday, the council will consider sending a letter to state and national representatives asking for full support of rural drug task forces, specifically Grand, Routt and Moffat counties Narcotics Enforcement Team.

The task force took a 30 percent cut in federal funding this year, which forced the elimination of its travel and confidential funds.

The confidential funds are used for undercover work and to buy drugs in sting operations.

"I'm surprised there's not more money available for this," Councilor Bill Johnston said.

A High Intensity Drug Trafficking Agency grant is being used to offset those cuts. That funding source also is in jeopardy. The agency wants drug task forces to concentrate on larger-scale cases that deal with a high quantity of drugs.

Northwest Colorado's team doesn't have the resources to net the quantity the agency wants, task force supervisor Dusty Shultz said.

Shultz said he thought the task force's expected 50 percent increase in arrests would secure the funding for next year.

Even if the grant were awarded, local contributions would need to increase to offset cuts in federal funding.

Contributions from Craig, Moffat and Routt counties and the city of Steamboat Springs increased from 12 percent to 34 percent last year. Last year, the Craig Police Department paid $49,013 for a task force officer. Next year, that amount is expected to increase to $57,182.

"We've been working regionally on making (the task force) self-sufficient because we know the grant money is going to dry up," police Chief Walt Vanatta said. "We've been told to expect another 30 percent cut."

Federal funding, originally intended to support small drug task forces, also is used to support drug intervention, education and prevention programs.

"It's going to take a grass-roots effort from small communities to say this is what the money is for and we want it back," Shultz said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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