Polk wins grant for new sheriff’s officer, car

Published 6:55 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has received a N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety grant that will enable the department to hire a traffic enforcement officer equipped with a new vehicle at minimal cost to the county for the first year.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday, Aug. 15 and unanimously approved a resolution accepting the grant.

The first year costs to the county will be $15,809. The county will contribute $7,500 from its contingency fund and the sheriff’s office will contribute the remainder of the first-year costs.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In the second year, the county will be responsible for 30 percent of the costs, mainly salary. In the third year, the county will pay 50 percent of the costs, and it will pay all the costs the fourth and following years. The vehicle and all equipment will be paid for through the grant.

The salary is $35,000 annually and including benefits will total $48,809. The total grant amount for the first year is estimated at $89,585.

Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill told commissioners although the officer will be called a traffic enforcer, there’s a lot more to the program.

“When I say traffic,” Hill said, “it’s not for speeding tickets. Part of the requirements are for educational programs at the schools.”

The grant requires the sheriff’s office to provide educational programs at the schools, particularly at Polk County High School regarding texting and driving and drinking and driving, especially around prom and graduation.

Hill said this is the first year Polk County was awarded the grant. The county was eligible, he said, because of points it received from participating in the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety program, which includes vehicle checkpoints.

The county and Columbus Police Department recently conducted a checkpoint in Columbus, where the Columbus Police discovered $159,000 in cash that was determined to be drug money. Local law enforcement receives 80 percent of seizure money from the state, which is how county officials are hoping the new traffic enforcer will be paid for in years to come.

Other goals in the grant include reducing traffic accidents by 10 percent and conducting monthly driving-while-impaired and seatbelt checkpoints.

The grant will be effective Oct. 1, when the sheriff’s office will be able to proceed with hiring a new officer and purchasing a vehicle and equipment.

During the Columbus Town Council meeting on Thursday, Aug. 18, the town will consider accepting the same grant.