Luverne may drop participation in drug task force

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mayor Joe Rex Sport told the city council on Monday night he is considering withdrawing from participation in the 2nd Judicial Drug Task Force.

Sport said the City of Luverne has an immediate need for officers on its police force.

Sport said he and police chief Paul Allen met with officer David Sankey - the department's current representative on the task force, which is comprised of officers from Lowndes, Butler and Crenshaw Counties - and expressed their desire in returning Sankey to the Luverne Police Department.

Sankey disagreed. He voiced his disagreement on Monday night.

"I think it is a mistake," he said. "The way drugs are running right now. It's just going to be in indication to people that they can do what they please."

Funding and the operating budget for the Drug Task Force come through ADECA. Sankey noted that the majority of his salary is paid for through ADECA grants, while the city contributes a smaller portion to his pay.

"For every $100 I make, it costs the city $25," he said.

However, the city also incurs additionally expenses from having the task force's office located in Luverne, said Sport. Electricity is provided at cost to the city, he said, plus the city still pays overtime to Sankey, while the task force has eliminated overtime pay to its agents. Sport said he expects costs to escalate as ADECA continues to cut funding for the operation of the task force.

"I told David that he was a lot more valuable to us on the streets of Luverne than with the Drug Task Force," said Sport.

Allen agreed with Sport.

"I hate to see us end our involvement with the Drug Task Force," he said. "But with what's being said, we have to look after the City of Luverne first."

Councilman Charlie Johnson wanted assurances from the mayor that the police force would concentrate heavily on the drug problem should Luverne pull out of the task force.

"Drugs cause so much bad in the community," he said.

Sport assured Johnson that would be the case.

"We're not going to turn our back on drugs," he said, noting that the addition of Sankey would give the police department three individuals, including Allen and Asst. Police Chief Mickey Powell, who had experience on the Drug Task Force. "We are going to do something about the problem."

The city will discuss possible action at its next council meeting.

In other business:

n City Engineer Morris Tate announced that bids are in for the upcoming downtown revitalization project and those bids would be opened on Friday. Tate said he doesn't know exactly where contractors will begin work on portions of the downtown area, but did say that there would be requirements from the city that local business owners and their patrons be as inconvenienced as possible during the renovations.

n The city agreed to a four percent pay raise to be paid into the state's retirement fund for local state retirees.