Task force in need of funds, more support

Published 8:31 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Fourth Circuit Drug Task Force, which covers five counties — Dallas, Bibb, Hale, Perry and Wilcox — and works under the authority of the district attorney’s office, is funded by a Federal grant and is in need of providing matching funds.

In a letter presented to each city and county within their coverage area, dated June 21, Jimmy Thomas, assistant district attorney, wrote, “In light of proration and the current state of our economy, payment of matching funds puts a tremendous strain on the D.A.’s budget.”

Thomas said the task force anticipates submitting a budget proposal in the amount of $497,638.98, and expects a match in funds between 25 and 75 percent. He presented his case to the Dallas County Commission Monday, and requested a contribution of at least $10,000.

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“We do a lot for the Fourth Judicial Task Force, and I’d certainly like to do more. I’d like to honor this request if there’s any way possible,” Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard said during Monday’s meeting. “They do a good job and have tremendous follow through when you give them a lead. They’ve been very instrumental in breaking up some drug rings.”

While Ballard and the other commissioners praised the task force, they decided to put the request on first reading, while they have a few questions answered.

“I’d like to look at the possibility of what the new tax is going to do,” Ballard said, noting that a new liquor tax, which passed in the last day of the state legislative session and is earmarked — 75 percent to go to District Judge Bob Armstrong’s Drug Courts and 25 percent to the district attorneys office. “I’m going to compute the numbers for the expectations of that new liquor tax, because it’s possible that that will help get them over the hump.”

Commissioner Roy Moore asked Thomas if each of the other four counties the task force serves, as well as the cities in those counties, would be asked to contribute funding as well.

Thomas nodded, saying each would be approached with a similar presentation and noted the task force can consistently depend on Perry County for $10,000 each year.

He added that contributions from the city of Selma have steadily decreased going from approximately $15,000 four or five years ago to $7,500 last year.

Currently Ballard said Dallas County contributes no hard cash to the task force, but emphasized the fact that the commission will speak with the district attorney and get a better understanding of the situation before they make a decision.

“I’ll talk further with the DA and see what the new tax is going to do,” Ballard said. “We’re not flush with money, but we’re not going to let your organization suffer and shut down over $10,000.”

The task force is a multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement agency that aggressively investigates drug dealers from the street corners to organized criminal enterprises operating in our circuit.