Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jun 2005
Source: Huntsville Times (AL) 
51. xml&coll=1
Copyright: 2005 The Huntsville Times
Author: Brandy Yates Poole


Guntersville Most Recent To Increase Allotment To Unit

GUNTERSVILLE - Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall's 
mission to drum up additional funds for the county drug enforcement 
unit has paid off.

The Guntersville City Council is the latest government body to agree 
to increase finances for the unit. On Monday, the council voted to 
increase money this fiscal year by $3,500, which brings the total 
allotment to $23,500, and offer $14,000 more next year for a total 
yearly expenditure of $34,000.

The Boaz City Council voted recently to increase its payment to the 
DEU from $20,000 annually to $40,000, which will, as in the past, be 
paid quarterly. The increase will begin with the next quarterly 
payment, which will jump from $5,000 to $10,000 per a budget 
amendment to be approved by the council, said City Clerk Barbara Walden.

On June 6, Arab committed $14,000 a year to help fund the unit.

The Marshall County Commission and Albertville City Council are 
expected to also pay additional money.

The county DEU is just one of many drug enforcement units in the 
state that learned their main source of funding - grants from the 
U.S. Department of Justice - was being slashed and matching funds, 
paid locally to secure the grant, would be going up.

The district attorney said the DEU is facing a reduction in federal 
funding from $285,000 to $185,000 this year. And, because the 
Department of Justice grant now requires a 50 percent match, another 
$70,000 to $75,000 in local funds must be raised to maximize the 
grant "to get it level-funded."

While the four major cities and the county have been providing 
$20,000 annually to the unit, Marshall is asking each city to provide 
an additional $14,000 annually, one-fourth of which would be needed 
this fiscal year since the DEU grant runs from July 1 through June 30.

The grant covers the salaries of DEU Director Rob Savage, four 
agents, a helicopter pilot and an administrative assistant. In 
addition, it pays 80 percent of the salary of an assistant district 
attorney and 25 percent of the salary of an accountant in the County 
Commission office, who performs bookkeeping duties for the DEU.

Other expenses must also be covered, including insurance, fuel, 
telephones and radios, evidence supplies, rent for the office and 
money for undercover drug buys.

Another boost in income is coming, Savage said, from $80,000 in 
seized money the unit will be applying toward the budget.

However, the agents will still have to tighten their belts. In fact, 
Savage said, one agent will be eliminated and it's possible another 
will have to be moved to part-time status.

Marshall said the unit worked on 715 cases last year, compared with 
376 cases in 2000.

Money that would have gone to the DEU is now being redirected to 
homeland security, Marshall said. The district attorney has also said 
it's not al-Qaida that worries people in Marshall County, but crystal meth.

While sensitive to the need for homeland security, Marshall said he 
hopes federal officials in charge of funding local drug enforcement 
understand what a serious need the county has for help to control this problem.

Marshall has voiced his concerns to U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, 
R-Haleyville, and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

"I think our congressional delegation understands the serious problem 
of meth in Alabama," Marshall said.