Budget juggle saves two task force slots

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Two Southwest Missouri Drug Task Force officers whose jobs were in jeopardy due to federal funding cuts can breathe a bit easier today.

Funding for the two positions, made possible through the Missouri Sheriff Methamphetamine Relief Task Force, ended Dec. 31, 2011.

Task Force Supervisor John Luckey said the men will retain their positions due to a 25 percent matching fund provided by McDonald County.

"This covers only their salaries and benefits, no equipment or vehicles," Luckey said.

Three other officers are funded through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG).

Drug-fighting agencies across the state are struggling to come up with grants or funding to cover a $1.5 million federal budget cut, which had previously been dedicated to methamphetamine eradication efforts.

"I will begin submitting contract adjustments for the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) ,so I can add the two agents there," Luckey said.

The department will be able to retain all five agents currently on staff.

"I could use 10," Luckey said. "Officers have picked up two [meth] labs this morning already and are on their way to possibly find a third."

Luckey said the radical increase in the number of meth labs in the area is due to a different way meth cooks are making their product, called a "shake and bake" lab.

"It's a very easy method," Luckey said. "Shake and bake labs can be done anywhere, because all of the ingredients are in one container.

"But it's a very dangerous method of cooking meth," Luckey continued. "They explode easily. It's difficult for officers during this time when the number of meth labs are on the rise and funding is being cut for seizure and eradication efforts."

The state of Missouri is likely not going to cover a portion of the federal funding cut because that would be introducing a new program into an already stretched budget.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Missouri could possibly face an $800 million shortfall in 2013.

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