Bexley irked by federal grant changes
President Barack Obama promised more than $4.5 million for Central Ohio police departments, but Bexley and other local cities may not apply for the funds.
Bexley police chief Larry Rinehart said his department had followed the guidelines set forth by the federal attorney general regarding how to apply for the money by the May 18 deadline. Bexley qualified for $20,480.
Originally, the department needed to prove that it planned to use the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) "to create a new job or retain an existing job, which is tough when you're only working with $20,000," Rinehart said.
The department planned to apply the funds toward the purchase of a pistol simulator that would train officers in the use of deadly force when "to shoot or not shoot," Rinehart said.
Occasionally, a few Bexley officers have traveled for similar training, but this would save the department money and benefit more people.
The American company that designs the simulator stated that Bexley's purchase would enable them to retain a worker for several more months.
The application progressed until March 27 when the Franklin County Office of Homeland Security and Justice Programs (OHS&JP) notified the chief that the process had changed.
Instead of applying directly to the Federal Justice Department, OHS&JP would apply on behalf of Bexley and the other cities.
On March 29, OHS&JP provided a new application packet with a deadline for submission of April 1 - two days later.
The new packet also included a memorandum for the mayor and council clerk to sign. Rinehart said the memorandum basically read, "Give us your grant money because we might have a better idea what to do with it."
Rinehart contacted OHS&JP for an explanation.
OHS&JP told him not to be concerned and that everyone else was signing it, Rinehart said.
The actual wording of the memorandum reads as follows:
"The Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance has recognized Franklin County's disparate allocation status under the federal FY 2009 Justice Assistance Recovery Act Grant Program by certifying that a disparity exists when multiple cities or municipalities are collectively eligible to receive four times (400 percent) more than the county and that the same county with concurrent jurisdiction bears more than fifty percent (50 percent) of the costs associated with prosecution or incarceration of the municipality's (sic) Part 1 violent crime.
"It is agreed that the Franklin County Office of Homeland Security and Justice Programs shall administer the JAG grant and serve as applicant/fiscal agent for the joint funds under the direction of the existing Franklin County Criminal Justice Planning Board."
City attorney Lou Chodosh said he spent "a lot of hours" trying to understand the memorandum and he was further bothered that OHS&JP told the chief "don't worry about it - just sign it."
In addition, "how can they say 'everybody else signed off' on it when they just printed it?" Chodosh said.
Most police chiefs could not discuss the application changes with their respective councils because the abbreviated turn-around occurred on the fifth week in the month when most councils do not meet.
Ordinarily Bexley's council would not have met either, but members had postponed their March 24 meeting to March 31 to allow themselves a spring break.
Mayor John Brennan said he expected OHS&JP to extend the deadline because "a lot of cities would drop out."
Rinehart said he spoke to Whitehall Police Chief Richard Zitzke, who will continue to apply for the $108,720 that his department was allotted.
Franklin County/Columbus are slated to receive $4,209,588, Reynoldsburg will get $63,838, and Grove City will receive $38,346. OHS&JP could not be reached for comment in time for press.
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