GRAMNET short on funds

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The Steamboat Springs City Council has approved a Steamboat Springs Police Department request to use money set aside for personnel to fund a regional drug enforcement task force.

In December, Steamboat Springs Public Safety Director J.D. Hays said drastic cuts in federal funding had left the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team, or GRAMNET, underfunded.

GRAMNET is an agency dedicated to investigating drug-related crimes and educating law enforcement agencies about drugs and related crimes in the region.

Soon after GRAMNET found out about the cuts, the agencies that comprise the drug task force -- the Craig Police Department, the Steamboat Springs Police Department, the Routt County Sheriff's Office and the Moffat County Sheriff's Office -- were asked to generate the $44,000 that was cut from the budget.

At the end of December, Hays asked the City Council for permission to use $11,000 from the police department's salary budget to fund GRAMNET.

The City Council approved Hays' request this month. Div-erting money from the department's salary budget was possible because the department has been understaffed by three officers, police Capt. Joel Rae said.

"It all worked out. We feel good about it. They feel good about it," Rae said.

Hays said that although the approval from the City Council is a start, he still is worried about where money will come from to supplement GRAMNET's 2007 budget.

"The grant funding for GRAMNET is drying up slowly but surely. We're fine for this year, but we're going to need more money in 2007," Hays said.

"Our individual agencies are going to be asked to step up."

Routt County Sheriff John Warner said GRAMNET's value to the county is worth the work needed to find $11,000 to fund the task force.

"I believe the 14 recent methamphetamine arrests in Craig is a classic example of (GRAMNET's) influence in this area," Warner said. "This meth problem is at our door. I am 100 percent behind GRAMNET."

Warner said he met with Routt County commissioners this week to discuss the county's $11,000 contribution, and he does not think the money will be an issue.

"They've given me no indication that they won't give me the money," he said.

Warner said the commissioners wanted to know whether he could find the money in his department's budget. Warner said there simply isn't enough money there.

He hopes the commissioners will make a decision in February.

"I think having GRAMNET is the most cost-effective way to handle drug cases," he said.

The Moffat County Sheriff's Office is requesting its share of GRAMNET contributions from the Moffat County Board of Commissioners. A decision about the request has not been given.

On Tuesday, Craig City Council members voted to provide their police department the $11,000 it requested. Craig's annual contribution to the drug task force is about $60,000 a year.

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