Pubdate: Mon, 31 Mar 2008
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Copyright: 2008 Rutland Herald
Author: Brent Curtis


State legislators have included $50,000 in its major  spending bill to
help Rutland with its drug problem.

But whether the appropriation weathers what promises to  be a tight
budget year remains to be seen.

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee  unanimously approved an
appropriation bill containing  $50,000 explicitly for the city. The
appropriation is  intended to pay for overtime in drug interdiction
cases, according to the bill.

"I think everyone has read the news stories and Sen.  (Patrick)
Leahy's visit attracted a lot of attention,"  Appropriations Committee
Chairwoman Rep. Martha Heath,  D-Westford, said Sunday when asked why
the city was  singled out. "The appropriation was supported by the
whole committee."

But whether it will survive scrutiny on the House and  Senate floors
remains to be seen. In a tight budget  year when many legislators are
worried that revenue  projections could fall short, the prospect of
cuts to  the proposed budget are very real.

But Rep. Joe Acinapura, R-Brandon, said he hopes  skeptical
legislators will consider the city's policing  needs in the big picture.

Acinapura, one of two Rutland County legislators who  sit on the House
Appropriations Committee, said the  special appropriation for Rutland
was approved in  committee because legislators recognized the city's
role in working with the state.

"The city is pumping a lot of resources into this," he  said. "It's
part of a comprehensive approach. Rutland  City we know is dedicating
a lot of resources to  fighting the problem and we want to do whatever
we can  to help."

The proposed funding would actually only represent a  net gain of
about $25,000 to $30,000 over what the city  has annually received
from the state.

Each year, the city applies for and has received police  assistance
funds from the state. Earlier in the decade,  the city received as
much as $60,000 annually from the  state. But the funding stream has
dwindled, according  to Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras, who said
Saturday  that the city now only receives about $20,000 a year  from
the state.

"I'm encouraged that the state has seen the wisdom to  allocate
$50,000 to help us," said Louras, who  commended Heath for listening
to the city's repeated  calls for assistance in recent months.

Rutland's escalating trouble with drugs and violence  has been well
documented since November when the first  of three drug-related
shootings took place. In  February, a New York man was killed during a
drug deal  on Grove Street. That act of violence prompted Leahy,  the
chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to  schedule a rare
committee field trip to Rutland.

The committee heard testimony from seven people last  week during a
hearing that attracted more than 200  listeners to the Franklin Center.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek