Sheriff’s office gets Homeland Security grant|Funds could be used for new boat, but 25 percent match required

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 12, 2009

If the Warren County Board of Supervisors can find an extra $51,000 in its coffers, the Warren County Sheriff’s Department will have the chance to purchase a new, state-of-the-art, emergency response and law enforcement boat.

The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security has awarded a $204,375 grant to the department. However, Sheriff Martin Pace said he can’t see where he could possibly come up with the required 25 percent match in his budget for the coming year. Funding for the sheriff’s department is $132,000 less than last year, with fewer new vehicles and personnel reflected in its $3.35 million budget. The county board approved the budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 on Tuesday.

“I just don’t have the money in my budget,” said Pace. “We’ve already had to cut it 10 percent.”

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Budgeted spending in Warren County for the coming fiscal year equals roughly $15 million — down more than $730,000 compared to this year — and expected revenue is $14.5 million.

Should the supervisors find a way to meet the required match, Pace said the department would be able to purchase a response and rescue boat similar to those used by the U.S. Coast Guard for inland harbor patrols in Memphis and New Orleans. The boat, complete with a law enforcement package and trailer, is specifically earmarked in the grant, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and aimed at increasing port security by expanding resources at the state and local levels.

“This is a reimbursement grant, so that money is available immediately,” said J.W. Ledbetter, director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security.

The sheriff’s department has one boat for emergency response and patrol on the Mississippi River and for use on inland lakes, said Pace. He estimated the new boat could service the department for the next 10 to 15 years, and said it would undoubtedly increase rescue and response capabilities on the river.

“These boats are built to withstand all kinds of weather and conditions. They’re virtually unsinkable,” he said, noting the boats are typically equipped with twin 225-horsepower outboard motors.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, which operates on the Gulf Coast, was also awarded a grant to purchase a new boat, said Ledbetter. In total, the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security oversees an estimated $100 million in grant allocations to cities, counties, police, fire and other departments and agencies throughout the state.


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