ELYRIA — A federal stimulus grant will allow the Lorain County Drug Task Force to hire back a laid-off county sheriff’s deputy and pay the salary of an assistant county prosecutor.
The $318,000 grant also will begin paying the salary of one of the nine current officers working for the task force, said sheriff’s Capt. Dennis Cavanaugh, the task force’s commander.
County Prosecutor Dennis Will said the money will allow him to pay Assistant Prosecutor Peter Gauthier to handle drug cases for the task force, freeing up money that will allow him to restore some of the cuts he implemented when the county commissioners slashed $6 million from the 2009 county budget.
Will had reduced his staff’s pay and work hours by 15 percent to avoid layoffs. That has meant prosecutors and others working for Will have been taking 1½ days off every two weeks.
With Gauthier off his payroll, Will said his staff’s pay will only be down 10 percent from where it was before the cuts. It also will mean his workers will be taking off one day every two weeks.
Cavanaugh said the deputy who is hired by the task force won’t be used for road patrol. Instead, the deputy will work on drug cases.
Sheriff Phil Stammitti laid off 12 full-time deputies and eight part-time deputies after the commissioners imposed the budget cuts. Two of those deputies were later rehired using funds from the Lorain County Solid Waste Management District but are assigned to deal with litter and other environmental crimes.
Stammitti, who also is responsible for security at the Lorain County Justice Center, serving warrants, registering sex offenders and other services, slashed his road patrol because of the reduced manpower. Those cuts have drawn fire from deputies, who say fewer deputies on the road puts themselves and the public in danger.
Cavanaugh had asked for $906,000 in grant money but said because he received only a third of that amount, he was only able to do so much. A 25 percent local match that the grant requires is being paid out of mandatory drug fines, Will said.
Will said the grant, which will last for 17 months, doesn’t change the need for a 0.5 percent sales tax hike that went into effect in April. Voters must approve keeping the sales tax increase in November or it will expire in April.