CHARLESTON - Mississippi County will receive $115,000 over three years through a federal U.S. Department of Justice grant to address gun violence.
Jennifer Raffety, Mississippi County prosecuting attorney, reported the grant award to county commissioners during Thursday's meeting. "I'm pretty excited," said Raffety.
The money is to be used to pay up to 80 percent of the salary and benefits for a full-time assistant prosecutor dedicated to focusing on the prosecution of gun-related crimes.
Underscoring the need for the position in Mississippi County, Raffety related how she and her family were disturbed Wednesday evening by a 10-minute exchange of gunfire. "It sounded like Kosovo out there," said Raffety.
The grant is made available through the Community Gun Violence Prosecution program, a Bureau of Justice Assistance Office of Justice program.
According to a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, "Congress has allocated $75 million for this program, making it the largest prosecutional hiring initiative in history."
In addition to contributing 20 percent in local matching funds, the county is required to make a "good faith effort" to retain the position for a year after the grant ends, Raffety said.
The grant amount will allow Raffety to attract and hire an experienced assistant. As the position will focus on "cases involving violent crimes committed with guns," according to Raffety, the person hired "must be a specialist in firearm laws."
Although gun-related violent crime must remain the primary focus, the letter explains that if there are not enough gun-related cases to occupy the assistant full time, the assistant may be used to prosecute other criminal offenses.
"It will benefit Mississippi County in more ways than just firearm-related crime," Raffety said.
Raffety said she plans to phase out the existing part-time assistant prosecutor position after a month or two overlap but would like to hire a part-time investigator if her budget allows.
In other Mississippi County news:
* Commissioners will accept an invitation from Chief Richard Couch of the Charleston Department of Public Safety to visit the Charleston E-911 dispatch center Thursday.
The E-911 centers hope to upgrade the emergency call recorders from Dictaphone systems to PC-driven recorders.
A ballpark figure for the new systems is $10,000 to $12,000 each plus the cost of a dedicated PC for each system, according to county officials.
* The individuals currently responsible for janitorial duties at the courthouse have submitted their two-weeks notice, according to Junior DeLay, county clerk. "We're going to have to start looking for a new cleaning crew."
The janitorial duties take about 25 hours per week total but county officials prefer two people for the job so there is a backup if one is unable to complete their duties.
Commissioners agreed to increase the hourly rate from $8 to $10 with a maximum of 25 hours per week.
* Commissioners approved the purchase of two SUVs for the sheriff's department for $23,598 each with trade in from Galemore Motors in Charleston.
* County officials were advised the permit to go on a state right-of-way to clean a drainage ditch requires a $500 returnable deposit.
* The new Fred's store in East Prairie opens Friday, according to commissioners.
Jim Blumenberg, presiding commissioner, said he is happy for the convenience of the new store but is even happier about the sales tax that will be generated for the county.
* Commissioners agreed to leave the courthouse open from 6:30-8:30 p.m. during the Charleston Dogwood-Azalea Festival's candlelight walk April 20.
The festival is scheduled for April 18-21.