Sarah WhelanPrivate Funding for Public Safety
Date last updated: Tuesday, March 10, 16:48 PST
N.H. police agencies get $9.8 mil surprise boost
By Annmarie Timmins
CONCORD, N.H. — State and local law enforcement agencies received some unexpected good news: The federal stimulus package is bringing them $9.8 million for crime fighting, education, technology and prevention programs.
The money is part of the Edward Byrne federal grant, created in 1988 for a fallen New York City police officer. The state Department of Justice and some local departments get Byrne awards each year but never in amounts as high as this year.
The bulk of the money coming to New Hampshire, $6.3 million, will go to the Department of Justice for its statewide drug task force and other efforts. It can also share the money with other state agencies - Corrections, the courts and liquor enforcement have been recipients in the past - or with social service agencies such as the Friends Program for mentoring.
Last year, the state received $630,000 in Byrne money.
"This is really big news," said Tim Brackett of the grant management department with the attorney general's office. "We'll be able to do more (for the drug task force and outside agencies) than we have in the past."
The grant amounts are based on a community's population and crime statistics.
Pamela Walsh, spokeswoman for Gov. John Lynch, said her office and Bud Fitch, the state's overseer of federal stimulus money, are exploring how to use the money. There are general guidelines that allow it to go toward law enforcement, prosecution and court programs, prevention, community corrections, drug treatment, and technology programs.
Brackett said his office is deciding which agencies it will invite to share in the state's $6.3 million award. There is likely to be more money coming with the final federal spending package, he said, but it will likely be less than $2 million. This award is part of the recently-passed stimulus package, he said.
Concord, which last year received $11,300 in Byrne money, will receive $183,788 this year.
"We had gotten wind that we might be getting a little more this year, but when you are coming off $11,000, we figured we might get $15,000," Chief Robert Barry said.
Barry said the money will help, but he doesn't yet know how because he got news of the grant only yesterday. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter announced the grant awards to local news media Friday, but word had not reached most local police departments by yesterday.
Laconia police Chief Michael Moyer, whose department is in line to get $112,900, was unaware of the award until reached by a reporter yesterday. He said he recalled the department getting Byrne grants in the past and said the money had been used for drug enforcement.
Federal rules prevent departments from using the money to supplant anything in the existing budget, which for Concord was $8.3 million last year. Barry said he can use the money for equipment, technology improvement and enforcement.
Barry said he's fairly certain he won't add any police positions with the money. The risk with doing so, chiefs said yesterday, is that there is no money for future salaries after the initial grant.
"We are going to try to use (the money) wisely to provide the maximum benefit to the taxpayers," he said. "This is a great thing for the city of Concord."
Even smaller towns, which haven't recently received awards, are getting money this year; among those are Northfield, Pembroke, Pittsfield and Belmont.
"That's great news," said Pembroke Chief Scott Lane, who like Barry first heard the news from a reporter yesterday.
Pembroke is due to get $13,187, and Lane hasn't had time to decide how he can use it.
Pittsfield police Chief Robert Wharem, whose department is slated to get $12,362, was pleased to get the good news prior to town meeting, set for Saturday. When Pittsfield received a Byrne award previously, it used the money to increase walking patrols downtown, Wharem said. He also said it was too soon to know how he'll use the money, but he said it's good knowing it's available in such a tight budget year, he said.
Hackett said his department at the attorney general's office is available to help local departments sort through the rules and application process. He said local departments must apply for their grant and show how they'd use it, but they won't be denied if their proposals meet the guidelines.
Copyright 2009 Concord Monitor
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