navhome navlife nav411 navdeaths

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Commission Controversy Arises Over Grant Funds

   For the first time in recent memory, Lawrenceburg commissioners have failed to accept free money offered to the city in the form of government grant funds.

   The matter, which spawned some controversy, was brought before the Lawrenceburg Board of Mayor and Commissioners during their regular session Thursday by Police Chief Terry Shay.

   Shay had submitted a memo to the board stating, “I respectfully request to purchase four ICOP digital in-car camera systems to be installed in the new police cars (three). One camera will replace an old camera that no longer works and is outdated. We already have three of these ICOP systems in place now. The total cost of the four cameras and necessary software is $21,163.20. This will be a sole source purchase due to existing equipment already in place to capture and store data. Funding is from Federal Justice Administration’s grants.” The purchase resolution appeared on the commission’s Thursday agenda.

   The resolution, presented for consideration by City Attorney Alan Betz, called for the purchase of the four cameras in question.

   Shay explained to commissioners that the city’s fleet of police cars is currently outfitted with cameras that are obsolete, using a VHS format. The department has been granted funding from this source for approximately twelve years, and Shay indicated his intent to use future grant funds to begin replacing the outdated cameras with a digital format.

   The grant, Shay explained, provides 100% funding, with no matching source required by the city.

   Commissioner Butch Morrow questioned Shay about the grant, saying that he could not remember it having come before the board for approval. He also expressed concerns about the funds not having been included in Shay’s 2007-2008 budget. Shay explained that the funds had not been allotted to the city during the budget process. He also pointed out that the board had approved applying for this particular grant during a previous meeting.

   Minutes from the commission’s August 2, 2007, meeting show that Morrow made the motion to approve the resolution, applying for the $18,468 grant. The intent of the grant, as explained at that time by Shay and Betz, was for the purchase of in-car camera systems. In addition to a verbal explanation, Shay included a memo to commissioners, explaining that, if received, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, “will be used to purchase four new ICOP 20/20 In-Car Video Systems at $4,750 each.”

   The cost for all four cameras totals $19,000. Shay explained Thursday that the remaining $2,163.20 would be funded from previous grant monies designated for the purchase of video equipment. The overage, he said, is for the purchase of software, supporting equipment and a warranty.

   Mayor Keith Durham asked for a motion to approve the camera purchase Thursday. When none was forthcoming he made the motion himself. The resolution died, however, for lack of a second.

   At that time Shay pointed out, “I just want you to understand that if we don’t spend this money, we will have to send it back.”

   During the discussion Commissioner Jerry Moore expressed concerns regarding Shay’s “hiring practices,” and inquired about the department’s Drug Fund and Education Fund. He indicated that he had been informed that the two funds had, in the past, been combined into one. Shay pointed out, however, “The Drug Fund is totally separate. By law it must be kept separate…”

   In response, Durham requested that City Administrator William McLain bring to an upcoming meeting information regarding both accounts for the commission’s examination.

   When asked after the meeting why they did not approve the grant purchase, Commissioners Morrow and Williams indicated they wished to obtain additional information about the grant, and, Morrow said, “how it relates to the city budget.”

   Durham pointed out that once commissioners have an opportunity to further study the matter, it will likely be brought up for a vote once again.