Drug Task Force receives grant money, needs more

COLUMBIANA — The Shelby County Sheriff’s Drug Task Force recently received a state grant of nearly $297,000, but needs about another $126,450 to be able to cover costs for another year, Lt. Chris George said at the Aug. 23 County Commission meeting.

The grant, which comes from the Alabama Law Enforcement Planning Division, is for $296,949 and will pay the salaries of officers working for the task force. The extra $126,450 is needed to pay part of the operations assistant’s salary, for a full-time prosecutor from the district attorney’s office and for two replacement vehicles.

George said during the meeting that other agencies from across the state, including the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs and the Department of Justice, have visited Shelby County to learn about the task force.

Since October 2009, the task force has seen a rising number of methamphetamine labs in the county, George said. Currently, the task force has processed 61 labs since October.

“Only one of those times, we found the actual product,” he said. “Sixty-one times, we’ve found what’s used to make it.”

George said the task force is also seeing a rise in cases involving heroin. However, the task force has made more than 10 heroin buys over the past two months and is focusing on snuffing out meth labs and heroin in the county.

“I think it’s working,” he said. “We’re taking a very aggressive approach.”

Capt. Mike Smitherman said the Sheriff’s Department plans to ask the County Commission to allow the department to use leftover salary money to make up the $126,450 shortage. The Sheriff’s Department typically has a surplus of money after budgeting salaries, Smitherman said.

“That’s our solution to the problem, instead of taking money away from any other county department,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Department plans to discuss the proposed solution with the County Commission at a future commission work session, Smitherman said.