CHARLESTON - It's out with the old and in with the new - hopefully by the end of the year.
Sandra DeField, Mississippi County treasurer, met with the county commissioners during their regular meeting Thursday to discuss phasing out the old Crime Reduction Fund and complete the process of setting up the new Law Enforcement Restitution Fund.
The Crime Reduction Fund originally received funds from additional penalties imposed at the judge's discretion, but the fines and use of the funds by law enforcement was challenged by schools - who said they should get the funds - and found to be improper.
"Basically, it was a double fine," DeField recalled.
In April 1999, county commissioners decided to keep the fund open by using money generated from inmate phones at the new jail which generate roughly $10,000 per year in revenue.
Asked how much money is presently in the Crime Reduction Fund, DeField estimated: "You've got about $9,500."
Presiding Commissioner Jim Blumenberg said the Crime Reduction Fund should have been more closely monitored and expenditures should have had documentation for auditors.
"That fund will be done away with," he said.
With the new House Bill 1055, judges can order defendants to pay restitution of up to $300 for offenses in which they are found or plead guilty, although speeding, careless and imprudent driving, traffic sign and signal violations and class C misdemeanors are not included.
With HB-1055, fees collected by the courts are deposited by the county treasurer in the county's Law Enforcement Restitution Fund which was put into place by county commissioners during their regular Sept. 23 meeting.
Once the fund begins to receive deposits, money from the old Crime Reduction Fund will be moved to the new Law Enforcement Restitution Fund. "Hopefully before the end of the year," said DeField. "I'll just wait until that starts generating money, then I'll transfer it."
The money in the new fund can be used by law enforcement to pay for undercover stings or to purchase equipment, but only after expenditures are approved by a five-member board of trustees made up of two members appointed by the presiding county commissioner, two members appointed by the sheriff and one member appointed by the county coroner.
So far only the presiding commissioner's two appointments have been made with Blumenberg opting to appoint the two district county commissioners, Martin Lucas and Homer Oliver. "I think two commissioners should always be on there," he said.
In related business, commissioners voted to make terms for the Law Enforcement Restitution Fund's board of trustees run for the length of the appointers' terms, which will stagger the board's terms.
In other Mississippi County business:
* Commissioners accepted the sole bid of $351 from Billy Watson of rural Charleston for the 1953 three-quarter ton cargo truck originally purchased from the U.S. Army's surplus by the county in 1984.
"It was used by the rescue squad," Lucas recalled. Commissioners were surprised to find the vehicle only has 21,000 miles on it, but noted it only gets about 4 miles per gallon - which may be fine for an off-road hunting vehicle, but is impractical county use.
Being purchased as Army surplus, there is no title but commissioners will hand over the release form received by the county from the U.S. government for the vehicle.
If the purchaser wishes to license the vehicle, it will be up to him to go through the process of obtaining a title, according to commissioners.
* Sharon Black of Charleston was appointed by commissioners to fill the unexpired term of her late husband, Wayne Black, on the Senior Citizens Sales Tax Advisory Board.
* Lucas questioned what county road and bridge department personnel are doing out in the Johnson grass truck.
"There's no need to spray this time of year," he said. "This six weeks of dry weather took care of it."
Lucas also said any ditches that can be fixed using a road grader should be "pulled" now while things are so dry.
* Commissioners agreed to try a 60-40 mix of oil to water for sealing county blacktop roads.
* Lucas will submit a request to Bootheel Solid Waste for a countywide tire roundup.