Local authorities were pleased to hear Tuesday about the approval of $1.9 million for methamphetamine investigations by a legislative committee.
“I think it’s fantastic. I’m glad to see the state step up to the plate,” Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond said. “I think they’ve done the right thing.”
The Budget Committee on Monday approved almost $20 million in extra spending for police, the poor and the Conservation Department, of which $1.9 million would go to help pay for meth lab investigations.
“It’s good news, and we’ve been fighting for it since we heard that the MoSMART program was cut for the federal government,” said Capt. Tony Wheatley of the Mid-Missouri Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force, referring to the Missouri Sheriff’s Methamphetamine Relief Team program.
“Now the guys are good to go for at least another year,” he said.
For Wheatley, that means the two agents formerly funded by the federal money will get to stay. In November, Wheatley was concerned the program would be down to four agents finding methamphetamine labs in the office’s 3,600-square-mile coverage area if a new funding source wasn’t found.
In addition to Pettis County, the Mid-Missouri Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force serves Morgan, Moniteau, Miller, Cooper and Howard counties. The remaining four Task Force officers are funded through a separate grant.
The U.S. Department of Justice previously paid for much of the MoSMART program, which began in 2001, but cut it from the budget in 2007.
The Legislature has done much to decrease methamphetamine use in Missouri through laws, Bond said, but it takes officers on the street to enforce the laws.
House Budget Chairman Allen Icet, R-Wildwood, said he wants to have the bills for the money up for a floor vote by Thursday, but Wheatley said his agents are still a bit worried the money might not materialize.
“Hopefully, everything will go smooth with it and we can get back to work,” Wheatley said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.