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Good news, bad news for town police department’s annual budget

After requesting and being denied for at least two years the funding to hire a second investigator, Jonesborough Police Chief Matt Hawkins is hoping for the best when it comes to a federal grant that could help his cause.
Members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen did not fund the position for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, but agreed it would be up for consideration if the agency were to garner a grant to help defray the cost of the new position.
The federal COPS Hiring Program provides grants for just such a purpose, offering to pay a percentage of the new position’s salary for a certain number of years.
“We file for that grant every year. It’s obviously something we’re very interested in,” Hawkins said. “The information I have received is that (School Resource Officers) are going to be given the majority of consideration this year. But we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hopefully we’ll get it.”
The town requested grant funding that would pay 80 percent of the investigator’s salary the first year, 60 percent the second year and 30 percent in the third and final year of the funding.
Grant winners are announced in the fall.
Without the additional investigator, Hawkins has told BMA members the agency’s ability to solve crimes and properly investigate situations will suffer.
If the grant doesn’t come through, that is a reality for Hawkins and his officers.
“The best thing I can say is, we will make every effort to provide the highest level of police services we can,” Hawkins said. “Just with the development of Washington County and the growth in Jonesborough and the whole area, our numbers are not going to go down. It is going to be a need that only increases.”
While the police department failed to get a new investigator this fiscal year, leaders did budget $305,000 to buy eight new public safety vehicles.
The purchase will drastically change the appearance of the police force’s front line, transitioning the majority of patrol vehicles from Chevy Impalas to Ford Interceptor Utility vehicles.
“Emergency vehicles are some of the most basic pieces of equipment that a professional police officer must have,” Hawkins said. “It’s the equivalent to my having an office chair or a computer. It’s just that essential for these guys.”
With regular police gear, plus the need to carry two bags of firefighting equipment — police officers are cross trained to respond to fires — the weight limit on the Impalas was quickly being reached, according to Hawkins.
“The Interceptors will offer more room and an additional 800 pounds to that weight limit,” Hawkins said. “It’s more vehicle for not that much more money.”
The Interceptors, of which six will be purchased, will cost a total of $38,000 each including the cost to purchase and install necessary police equipment in and on the vehicles.
Since the Interceptors are All Wheel Drive, the department will also be able to get rid of some of its old, inclement weather vehicles, Hawkins noted.
Two Ford Explorers will also be purchased at a slightly lower cost. One will be used by Maj. Matt Rice while the other will be used by Jonesborough Fire Chief Phil Fritts.