Lowndes fights to keep DTF

Published 8:53 am Monday, October 4, 2010

Despite signals last week of a possible change of location, the Lowndes County Commission and the town of Hayneville are working diligently to keep the Drug Task Force (DTF) in Lowndes County.

As it stands, the DTF Board of Directors have made no formal vote to move the DTF from Lowndes County, according to the DTF Project Director and Hayneville Police Chief Kelvin Mitchell.

“The (DTF) board has not met at all concerning the removal of the task force from Lowndes County,” said Mitchell.

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Mitchell added that no meeting has been scheduled as of Sept. 28 to discuss the removal of the DTF from Lowndes County.

The board consists of Lowndes County Sheriff Charlie “Chip” Williams, Mitchell, Hayneville Mayor Helenor Bell, Lowndes County Commission Chairman Charlie King, Jr and District Attorney Investigator Wayne Lee.

“The board decides all issues concerning the DTF,” said Mitchell. “Anything that transpires with the DTF must be motioned, voted upon, approved and legally documented.”

According to Mitchell, District Attorney John Andrews has signed an inter-agency agreement with Butler County and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Department, but has not signed any such document for the Lowndes County Commission.

An inter-agency agreement is an attachment to the ADECA grant and is when two or more parties, such as the Lowndes County Commission and the town of Hayneville, agree to “adhere to the rules of the DTF and assign a person, or people, to conduct the business of the DTF,” according to Mitchell.

“I have not seen an inter-agency agreement from the Lowndes County Commission and the town of Hayneville,” Andrews said. “It is a little late to be doing something at the last minute.”

During the Sept. 27 Lowndes County Commission meeting, King motioned to have a letter written to Andrews asking him to support the DTF in Lowndes County. The motion was approved unanimously.

The District Attorney holds the responsibility of prosecuting drug offenders. If the District Attorney does not sign the inter-agency agreement, then the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) will not approve grant funding for the DTF, according to Mitchell.

ADECA began allocating 100-percent of any grants applied for through the DTF in 2008. Prior to 2008, ADECA required a 50-percent match toward the grant and has the final decision as to which county, or entities, receives the grant.

“There needs to be a task force for the entire circuit, not just one county,” said Andrews. “Whomever ADECA gives the grant to, I will prosecute for.”

The grant is usually used to pay for equipment and sometimes salaries for the DTF agency, according to Williams.

King and Commissioner Robert Harris have expressed concern over equipment purchased by Lowndes County and the town of Hayneville remaining within the county if the DTF is relocated.

Lowndes County Attorney Hank Sanders stated in the meeting that he “would think the equipment would belong to the program” as opposed to the Commission.

“Once you pay the money, I don’t see where you can go back and take the equipment,” said Sanders.

If the DTF is relocated to another county, the agency would still be in effect in Lowndes County, according to Williams.

“The Lowndes County Commission and the town of Hayneville, who are the only agencies assigned to the DTF board, welcome other entities and counties to join up with us,” said Mitchell. “We are just requesting the DTF remain in Lowndes County.”

The current inter-agency agreement for Lowndes County is among the McKenzie, Hayneville and Brantley and Ft. Deposit Police Departments.

The DTF is part of the 2nd Judicial District, cover Butler, Crenshaw and Lowndes Counties and has been located in Lowndes County since 2001, according to Mitchell.