Saturday, February 17, 2007
Craig On the same day Routt County sheriff Gary Wall announced his office no longer would fund the drug task force, the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotic Enforcement Team, its board met to discuss contingency plans.
"We all had a preconceived notion this was going to happen," task force commander Garrett Wiggins said Friday. "We'd talked about it and made preparations for it."
Those preparations, the board agreed, entail other agencies filling the financial void left by Routt County's withdrawal and reaffirming a commitment to GRAMNET, Wiggins said.
"I think there's an impression that this was going to doom GRAMNET," Wiggins said. "That is not the case. We're going to move forward."
Wall, who was elected in November after defeating Wig-gins in a contentious race, said Thursday the task force's results didn't warrant continued funding. He also questioned GRAMNET tactics, accusing officers of violating civil rights.
Wiggins said the Routt County withdrawal will cost GRAMNET about $13,000 in operating expenses, plus an officer allocated to the task force from the sheriff's office.
Remaining contributors to GRAMNET are the Moffat County Sheriff's Office and the Craig and Steamboat Springs police departments, and on a more limited basis, the Hayden Police Department, Jackson County Sheriff's Office and the 14th Judicial District Attorney.
Wiggins has received assurances from each of those agencies of their continued participation in GRAMNET, and the Craig and Steamboat Springs police departments and Moffat County Sheriff's Office have agreed to increase funding by about $4,000 per agency to offset the Routt County loss.
"Everyone has expressed complete support for GRAM-NET," Wiggins said.
Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said the Routt County withdrawal will have minimal impact on GRAMNET this year. Routt County already has paid part of its 2007 allocation.
Wiggins said he was more concerned about the enforcement void Routt County's task force withdrawal leaves than the budgetary impacts. Wall has said GRAMNET will refrain from conducting narcotics investigations in rural Routt County.
"Every drug dealer is going to know, 'All we have to do is move into the county,'" Wiggins said.
He also took issue with Wall's opinion that GRAMNET violates civil rights.
"There's not ever been one substantiated case of that happening," Wiggins said. "If there was ever even one violation, there would have been a civil suit worth millions and millions of dollars. That hasn't happened."
Bonnie Roesink, 14th Judicial District Attorney, said she disagrees with Wall's decision to pull away from GRAMNET.
"I think it's the wrong thing to do, and I encouraged him to stay in," Roesink said. "I think they do good work and this makes their job more difficult having one less officer. I'm sorry he's made the decision to pull out."