Franklin County commissioners want more information about the Tri-Cities Metro Drug Task Force before continuing to pay for it.
The bicounty task force has seen its federal funding drop in recent years, with a Justice Assistance Grant going from $350,000 in 2010, to $118,000 for fiscal year 2016. It has a total projected budget for fiscal year 2016, which starts July 1, of $389,000.
“The grant has reduced significantly,” said Kennewick City Manager Marie Mosley, chairwoman of the task force’s executive board. “It’s like everything we’re seeing at the state and federal level.”
The budget jumped from $322,922 for the current fiscal year, largely because of increases in salary for a police commander supplied by Kennewick and a doubling in what the task force pays to buy drugs on the street for undercover operations.
Commissioner Rick Miller, a member of the task force’s executive board, made a motion Wednesday for the county to match the $43,824 that Benton County is putting toward a drug prosecutor, but the motion died for lack of a second. Benton County is paying $160,000 of its share of the drug task force with revenue from the public safety sales tax approved last year.
Commission Chairman Brad Peck wants to talk to Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant and Sheriff Jim Raymond to get their thoughts about the task force before making a decision. He also plans to review a “white paper” being put together by a governing board made up of Tri-City police chiefs, sheriffs and prosecutors.
“I’ve not spoken to anyone who feels anything other than that Metro is a productive and worthwhile effort,” Peck said. “In an environment of limited funds, while this is a good investment, is it the best investment?”
The drug task force arrested 62 people in 2014, 14 of them on federal charges, according to task force documents. Of those arrests, 21 were in Pasco, more than any other area city.
“Pasco is the hub for drugs, we have a lot of activity here,” Miller said. “It’s going out to Kahlotus, to Basin City and elsewhere. It’s a community effort that I think we ought to continue to support it.”
A total of 55 people arrested by the task force were convicted last year, though it is not clear if they were all arrested in 2014, Miller said.
The drugs seized in Benton and Franklin counties had a value of $17.4 million, according to the task force. Of that, $8.5 million came from methamphetamine, $4.9 million was marijuana, $1.7 million was cocaine and $1.4 million was heroin.
Also Wednesday, commissioners:
• Named David Dorsett, director of the Franklin County Mosquito Control District, to the TRAC Advisory Board. The board still has one vacant position.
• Increased the salary range for its vacant county administrator position to between $125,000 and $145,000 annually. The amounts would include possible performance bonuses. The position has been open since former Administrator Fred Bowen retired in February. The county is paying The Prothman Co. of Issaquah $24,500 to conduct the search. Commissioners set an initial salary range of $116,000 to $121,000 annually.