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IPD request $10,000 for drug task force

Putting a price on combating drugs is not easy but the Ironton Police Department did just that during a meeting of the Ironton City Council Finance Committee on Thursday.

IPD detective Captain Joe Ross addressed the committee with other council members present about the need for the City of Ironton to have its own drug task force.

“(The department) has received numerous complaints from residents about drugs in Ironton,” Ross said. “I am here seeking funding for drug prevention.”

The Drug Intervention Team would be an interdepartmental extension of the IPD’s Special Response Team (SRT) and be comprised of current officers.

“The drug problem in Ironton is gigantic, as everyone knows,” Ross said. “We are requesting $10,000 in a separate fund to get the drug team up and running. The county task force has only five or six people in a county with a population of 60,000 and we want to assist them. They focus on the county and we want to focus on our city.”

Council member and finance committee chair Aaron Bollinger asked Ross specifically about the requested amount.

“I know $10,000 is just a drop in the bucket,” Bollinger said. “The county has a $200,000 budget for its drug team. What will this money be used for?”

Ross said one IPD officer would act as team leader and much of the county’s budget goes toward salaries, but the IPD’s money would not.

“We would use the money for equipment, to pay informants and to buy the drugs,” Ross said. “The county task force is so overwhelmed with stopping thieves, vandals and burglars and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

IPD Police Chief Dan Johnson told the committee he was “all for the idea” and Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship suggested splitting the $10,000 given the county task force last year between the city and county this year.

“I’m all for doing this and if we do it, I personally would expect to see results and not just give them the money and tell them good luck,” he said. “I think we all agree people are sick and tired of seeing this drug stuff happen.”

Council member Craig Harvey asked about the county drug team’s funding and Bollinger said the team, which was begun in 1997, is funded through grants, the sheriff’s office, county prosecutor Brigham Anderson’s office, matching funds and the money from the City of Ironton.

“We are in the process of seeking grants,” Ross said. “But to get grants most of the time you have to provide statistics, and obviously we don’t have any. By having a task force in Ironton, the city and county could call on each other for help.”

Bollinger said, to his knowledge, no other villages in Lawrence County allocates money to the county’s task force and urged Ross to try and obtain grants because “they are out there.”

“It will be a slow process and might take us a while to get rolling,” Ross said. “We will set up an anonymous tip line and things like that. We will be able to see a difference in six to eight months.”

City of Ironton Finance Director Kristen Martin told the committee a separate fund can’t be created for the task force because the money comes from a tax base, but a separate account could be created within the police budget.

“I support it and you should support it,” Blankenship told the committee. “I know we have $5,000 we can give them.”

Bollinger, Harvey and finance committee member Bob Cleary agreed unanimously to recommend the $10,000 allocation to council.

Brown/Raybourne Insurance representative Dave Brown presented the committee with insurance quotes for 2014. If agreed on, city employees would be covered by Anthem and Brown said the policy’s deductible and 90-day prescription plan will decrease and co-pays and 30-day prescription plan will increase slightly from last year.

A special-called city council meeting has been set for 4 p.m. Monday to read and possibly enter into a contract for health insurance with Anthem.

The committee also reviewed the proposed 2014 budgets for the benefits, buildings, finance/tax and mayor’s departments and the recreation fund. Maintenance, equipment upgrades and capital improvements in each fund were discussed in detail.