Ken Wergin listens Thursday at the Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse's public meeting at the Moffat County School District administrative building. COMA encouraged public input about the organization's direction in the future.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Ken Wergin listens Thursday at the Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse's public meeting at the Moffat County School District administrative building. COMA encouraged public input about the organization's direction in the future.

Meth questions voiced at COMA meeting

Funding for drug task force to decrease this year, officials said

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The local organization, Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse, met Thursday for a public meeting at the Moffat County School District administrative building. Group members answered questions from the public about local methamphetamine use and distribution.

— The methamphetamine problem in Craig still is just that - a problem.

Those were the words of Tom Cramer, Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse member and former methamphetamine user Thursday afternoon.

"I think that the meth issue in Craig is still horrible," he said at COMA's monthly meeting at the Moffat County School District administrative building. "It's huge."

However, law enforcement officials said some aspects of the local methamphetamine trade have changed. They also cautioned that funding for a local task force could face funding cuts in the near future.

Questions about local methamphetamine abuse arose during the board's review of 2008 goals it drafted in November 2007. Those goals included making methamphetamine abuse a community cause and a visible issue while providing education about the addictive drug.

COMA officials aren't planning to make changes to the organization's goals at this time, COMA member Joel Sheridan said.

The meeting's audience of about 10 people was made up largely of either former methamphetamine users or people close to them. When the floor was opened to public comment, questions asked related largely to methamphetamine abuse in Moffat County.

Craig resident Ken Wergin asked if methamphetamine users and distributors are becoming less visible.

The answer, said Ken Johnson, ACET task force officer, was no.

"We're seeing it happen the same way it's always been out there," he said, adding that money made from selling methamphetamine still is lucrative for potential distributors.

ACET has made several methamphetamine-related arrests this year, including a Moffat County Social Services employee arrested Wednesday on suspicion of selling the drug from a county office in Dinosaur this week.

One of the task force's largest arrests in its history took place in March, when ACET officers arrested 11 Hispanic men on drug-related charges. Authorities seized methamphetamine and cocaine valued $30,000 during the operation.

Arrests involving nonlocal distributors are uncommon, Johnson said.

"Most dealers here live here and have lived in Craig for a while," he said.

However, methamphetamine production has shifted from the local to the international stage, Jantz said.

"A prevalent amount (of methamphetamine) is coming up from Mexico or other sources," the Sheriff said, adding that the drug's precursors are harder for local producers to obtain in America.

Jantz also alluded to a federal funding cutback that could affect ACET's ability to combat the drug trade.

"The concern that we have is the major funding for the task forces is coming to an end," he said.

This year, Jantz said, ACET will lose $90,000 from a federal judicial grant that will be reduced.

"As an administrator for an agency, that concerns me greatly," he said.

Funding from the grant will be diverted to other sources, he said, including war efforts abroad.

Those funds made up about 20 percent of ACET's annual budget, said Garrett Wiggins, ACET task force commander.

Wiggins said he currently is applying for a three-year federal grant totaling about $85,000, adding that the grant is tailored specifically to "methamphetamine-specific issues."

The task force may have to cut ACET's financial manager position to conserve funds, he said.

However, Wiggins plans to keep the task force's programs intact.

"We're not planning on cutting any programs," he said.

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