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Belknap County police grant questioned by residents


June 10, 2009
Gilford resident Doug Lambert and former Laconia mayor Tom Tardif are questioning the Justice Assistance Grant that six county police organizations are applying for.

"We discovered that what the grants says at a federal level and what they did at the state level are different," said Lambert. "Among other things it says that they have to hold a public hearing on what the money is going to be used for and they have not done that."

Lambert added that they put in the application before they had the green light from the County Convention or the County Commissioners. Lambert and Tardif sent 20 letters to various government branches that might have any interest in the matter.

"I believe that if they look at the letter they will deny the application at the very least, said Lambert.

The money is coming through the Edward Bryne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Formula Program, which President Barack Obama has put money into earlier this year. Through this grant and in cooperation with the county, the Gilford Police Department is entitled to $24,725. The county will be the finance officer for the funds. The department will purchase the desired equipment once the JAG funds are released.

Once the equipment has arrived the GPD will send the paperwork to the Belknap County Sheriff's Office and be reimbursed the cost of the equipment.

This grant is in partnership with other qualifying towns in the county. The grant is open to state and local governmental agencies addressing issues of violent crime, drug abuse and related criminal and juvenile justice problems. The grantee must implement this project according to the goals, objectives, and plans as proposed, accepted, and set-forth in this award.

As part of this implementation the grant states that the application needs to be "available for review by its governing body not fewer than 30 days before the application is submitted." Lambert contends that this was not completed as per the grant.

"We are not doing anything that anybody else in the country isn't doing," said Belknap County Sheriff Craig Wiggins. "What it requires is a public notification, which we did."

Wiggins said the matter was discussed first at the April 22 meeting of the commissions and at two public hearings after that. Wiggins said the grant does not require a specific public hearing to be held. He added that the instructions of the grant instruct the applicant to submit the grant even if the governing body has not approved it. According to the FAQ on the JAG Web site:

"Governing body approval is not required in order to submit the application to BJA. Submit your application via GMS no later than the application deadline, regardless of whether the local review process is complete. If the application is not complete, or you do not meet the 30-day governing body review requirement, BJA will add a special condition to the award that will withhold grant funds until you submit documentation confirming the requirement has been met."

Wiggins said that their office has followed the guideline of the grant and that the funds will go toward items that the departments need to do their jobs.

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