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franklin county times

Clarke County to leave drug task force

By By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
August 3, 2004
Clarke County Sheriff Todd Kemp said today his department will pull out of the East Mississippi Drug Task Force on Sept. 30 because of financial problems in the county.
Kemp phoned Lauderdale County Sheriff Billy Sollie and Meridian Police Chief Benny DuBose on Monday to tell them about the county's decision, which Kemp said was made during the county's annual budget discussions.
The move will leave Meridian and Lauderdale County officials to decide the fate of the task force a 12-member drug enforcement team funded in part through a more than $200,000 federal grant administered by the state.
The Clarke County Sheriff's Department, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department and the Meridian Police Department contribute about $26,000 a year each to match the federal grant.
Sollie said he and the other agencies have already submitted their grant application to operate the task force during the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Sollie said he will contact the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and inform them of the change in the application.
Clarke County's pullout comes two years after it joined the task force and two years after Kemper County withdrew. Sollie said he was "encouraged four years ago" by the state that Meridian and Lauderdale County should incorporate a neighboring county.
Clarke County's decision also could force Meridian to rethink its involvement with the task force.
DuBose told Meridian city councilmen Monday that they could look at it as a positive the city could possibly split the extra $26,000 cost with the county and have 12 drug enforcement officers serve the entire county.
Whatever the city and county decides to do, both DuBose and Sollie agree on the need for the task force.
As for Clarke County, Kemp said his department could face more cuts besides the absence of the task force. Kemp said he currently has seven full-time and four part-time deputies to protect the county.

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