Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ketchum could lose $198,000 police grant

Feds question whether city still has a police department

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum was awarded a $198,000 federal grant in July to fund a new police officer for three years, but the city hasn't hired anyone yet. That's because Ketchum hasn't seen a cent.

And the check to be signed by the federal government may never come.

The city was one of 13 police agencies in Idaho awarded grants under the Department of Justice's COPS Hiring Recovery Program, which provided funding for 26 new law enforcement officers. About $1 billion was awarded nationally for 4,699 police officers.

The grants cover both salaries and benefits for the officers for three years, but stipulate that the positions be retained by the cities using their own money for a fourth year.

Ketchum may not receive its share for one officer because of a change to the town's police force that occurred after application in the spring.

On July 1, the city handed over control of the Ketchum Police Department to the Blaine County Sheriff's Office under a contract to be reviewed every fiscal year.

With the sheriff's office assuming law enforcement responsibilities, the Justice Department is confused as to whether Ketchum's police department exists at all, said City Administrator Gary Marks.

"We complied with the rules," Marks said, "but now we're kind of in this netherworld."

He said a decision should be made within a month.

If the Justice Department decides that Ketchum is without its own police force, Ketchum will be denied its grant. The city could re-apply in January, not under the Ketchum Police Department but under the Blaine County Sheriff's Office.

But Marks doesn't see a problem.

"They believe it's a gray area," he said. "I don't."

He said the city's police department remains intact. The city is merely contracting out for service with the sheriff's office, not terminating its department.

"They're hung up on that we don't have a police department anymore," Marks said. "Not true."

Ketchum still provides financial backing for the police department through the county contract. The police officers continue to use city-owned vehicles and equipment, wear Ketchum uniforms, and work out of Ketchum City Hall offices.

"All along, we didn't want to give up control," he said, "and we haven't."

Marks also said a grant-funded officer would be directly employed by the city.

"Since we intend to directly employ the new officer and manage the grant contract, the city will be in full compliance with grant regulations," he said.

The Justice Department is taking its time deciding if there's a difference between contracting out and merging the department into the sheriff's office.

Marks said the Justice Department admitted it didn't plan for this, but Ketchum shouldn't be the one to suffer. He said Ketchum is equal to other cities and scored higher than any other Idaho community applying for the grant.

And, he said, the switch to contracting with the sheriff's office will save the city more than $1 million over the next four years.

The city appears ready, either way the decision falls.

"If we have to reapply, we will," Marks said.

Trevon Milliard:

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2023 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.