Grants for police still available

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 24, 1999

FERRIDAY, La. – A federal grant that would fund the salaries of new police officers for Ferriday for three years is still available – if the town can raise the matching funds, Police Chief Eddie Newman said.

If the department can come up with $54,167 in matching money, the COPS grant from the U.S. Department of Justice can be the city’s. And three of five Ferriday Town Council members said they would be willing to vote to use proceeds from a 3/4-cent sales tax voters passed Oct. 23 to match the grant.

&uot;I&160;have no problem with using the money for that. We need more cops and more training for them,&uot;&160;said Councilman Sammy Davis Jr. &uot;If we don’t get more officers, the police we have will get burned out.&uot;

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The town of more than 4,200 people now has only four officers. At this month’s council meeting, some residents said the town needs more officers to control drugs and other crime.

In late 1998, the department announced it had been approved for a COPS grant of $97,500 to help pay the salaries of three officers but would have to match it with $32,500. But Newman had little luck raising the money from private donations, and the town’s own budget has been tight.

Since then, the amount of funds Ferriday can get has actually increased, so now $162,500 is available for five officers. That means the town must raise $54,167 in matching funds.

But most council members seem supportive of using proceeds of the 3/4-cent sales tax increase, which starts in January, for matching the COPS grant.

&uot;I’d be happy if the money was used for that,&uot;&160;said Councilwoman Dorothy Johnson. &uot;I’m sure the people of my district would love to have more police protection.&uot;

&uot;Sure I’d be for that,&uot; said Councilman William Rucker. &uot;The police and fire departments are the areas we told the public we were going to use the money for in the first place.&uot;

In April, Ferriday and Vidalia officials asked a committee of the Louisiana Legislature to let them hold elections on levying sales tax increases of up to 1 cent. Ferriday officials told lawmakers its tax proceeds would be used for police and fire improvements. But the State Bond Commission approved Ferriday’s using the tax for any legal purpose. Last month, Mayor Odeal Montgomery said the tax would be used in a number of city departments, from streets and sanitation to police and fire.

It is still not clear when the town council is expected to decide how to use the tax, although Rucker said he expects such a decision to be made in the next couple of months.

Councilwoman Gail Pryor said she would have to check with the town’s attorney to see whether the tax could be used to match the grant before she could vote for or against it. Councilman Bob Jones could not be reached for comment.