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Sheriff seeks stimulus funding to make up for position cuts

The Washington County Sheriff's Office is looking to the federal government for stimulus funding to make seven new hires.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners vote 5-0 Tuesday, April, 14 to authorize the department to submit its grant application to the federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Recovery Program.

Sheriff Bill Hutton said if the full grant request is approved, it will be used to hire three courts positions and one deputy patrol officer. The county cut the three courts positions in March when as a part of a $3.1-million reduction to its 2009 budget. The deputy patrol position was cut during the 2009 budget process.

The federal grant, which will be processed through the federal Department of Justice, would provide funding for the positions from Sept. 1, 2009 through Aug. 31 2012, Hutton said.

"Because of the Sept. 1 start period for the funding, we expect this application process to be a quick turnaround," Hutton told commissioners.

Included in the board's approval, the sheriff's department will also be submitting grant applications for four patrol positions that it contracts with the cities of Hugo and Marine on St. Croix and other communities in the Lower St. Croix Valley.

Those cities previously told the sheriff's office they would like increased patrol presence in their communities, but indicated they did not have funds to do so in 2009.

The total cost of the contracts over three years would amount to nearly $1.8 million, Hutton said.

Commissioners Dennis Hegberg said he recalled the county received similar federal funding for sheriff's office deputy positions during the 1990s under the Clinton administration.

Commissioner Myra Peterson said she hoped that if the three-year grants were approved there would be a source of revenue to continue to keep the positions beyond 2012.

Several other cities in the Twin Cities are also applying for COPS funding, including Woodbury in Washington County.