|City Council OKs agreement to fund new drug task force|
|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
April 5, 2006 -- An agreement between the city of Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County creating a special drug interdiction unit received unanimous approval from city council members Tuesday evening.
Special drug enforcement efforts through Tactical Narcotics Task Force, which later became the Red River Valley Drug Task Force, ended in March when grant money from the state ran out. City and county officials were concerned with the continuing drug problem in the area and began looking for ways to continue interdiction efforts.
"The truth of the matter is, a lot of the drugs are consumed within the city limits and may have actually been produced in meth labs out in the county," City Manger Marc Maxwell told council members. "We approached the county judge and the sheriff and [came up with] a general agreement."
The agreement was for the creation of the Special Crimes Unit.
Plans call for the SCU, which will be devoted strictly to drug offenses, to be made up of two city officers and one from the sheriff's office.
The city and county would be called upon to cover costs exceeding any grant monies received to operate the special unit.
The city manager also told the council that a portion of the forfeited property held by the Red River Valley task force would come to the city and county and would be used to help fund the newly created unit.
The agreement will now go to county commissioners for consideration. Information from the county judge's office indicated a workshop session would be called for the commissioners court to discuss the agreement next week.
City council members also gave approval to a resolution nominating T-Bone Alley Downtown Streetscape for a Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program [STEP] grant. If approved, the grant of $1.2 million would be used to replace sidewalks on Main and Connally streets, to build parking at Main and Davis, and “to pave and do something nice with T-Bone Alley," the city manager explained.
The sidewalk work would involve the use of brick as well as concrete and the grant would also pay for "period lighting" in the downtown area.
One of the concerns of council members had to do with the air conditioning units sitting on the ground in T-Bone Alley, behind businesses on the block surrounded by Gilmer, Main, Davis and Connally streets.
The city manager said staff has already been in contact with many of those businesses and plans would require the units be moved to the building roofs.
Another concern that had already been addressed by city staff involved the relocation of trash dumpsters in the T-Bone Alley area.
Mayor Clay Walker took time at the start of the council meeting to issue a proclamation recognizing the valuable contributions made by Cindy Smith in working with those people who came to Sulphur Springs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"Mrs. Smith, after volunteering countless hours at the emergency shelter at Wesley Methodist Church, was hired by the city to coordinate, over a six-month period, the federally funded assistance for these evacuees and to act as a caseworker to assist these folks in all aspects of their lives during their temporary stay," Walker said.
The mayor also pointed out that Smith went "above and beyond the call of duty" by continuing to work after hours and on weekends to ensure the needs of the evacuees were met.
Smith's last day working for the city was Feb. 28,
"Her job here is done, but she will be remembered for many years as a hero to the many people she assisted in the wake of the disaster," Walker said.