HUNT activating committee to address budget issues

ALPENA — The Huron Undercover Narcotics Team board is going to activate its advisory committee to come up with recommendations on what each county and the City of Alpena can commit to the team’s operations.

The totals then will be used to craft HUNT’s budget, which was supposed to be adopted before Oct. 1.

During a meeting Friday it was recommended by Michigan State Police 7th District Commander Mike Caldwell that an ad hoc committee created to determine how much the participating municipalities should contribute be dismantled because it has been unable to do so. The committee will have a representative from Alpena, Rogers City, Alcona County, Alpena County, Montmorency County and Presque Isle County. Caldwell was critical of the HUNT board and said it is time to get on track, abide by the bylaws and provide the funds and tools necessary for the team.

“It’s Oct. 20 and we’re not even close to having a proposed budget and it is not fair to the team commander or the team, which is out there busting their butts,” he said. “We are behind on our budget, behind on our election of officers and four years behind on reviewing our bylaws. This board, as an entity, has not been very effective.”

Calwell said some of the municipalities are in arrears and have not paid their share.

“According to the bylaws if you are in arrears, you shouldn’t have a vote,” Caldwell said. “My suggestion is we put that behind us and wipe the slate clean and move forward.”

It will be the committee’s responsibility to come up with a recommended contribution that each municipality should pay in order to cover the cost of operations, but those dollar amounts only will be recommendations.

Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora said recommendations can be made, but some won’t be granted in full. He said because councils and boards vote on allocations there is no guarantee the full requested amount would be approved.

“I’m one person on a five member council and I not the only one who makes decisions on how much the City of Alpena spends on HUNT,” Waligora said. “You can tell the council what it owes, and I can fight all day long for that amount, but the reality is you still have to have the votes to get the full amount.”

After further discussion it was decided that each municipality would tell the committee what its likely allocation will be and then those amounts will be plugged into a proposed budget.

Caldwell said HUNT received an unexpected increase of about $24,000 in its annual Byrne Grant, which he said will help to reduce the amount needed from the counties and city next budget year.

The committee will meet on Oct. 31 at 9 a.m. at the MSP Alpena Post and then the budget should be passed at the board’s next meeting.

The elections of new officers also will take place in the coming months. Nominations for chairman, vice chair and clerk will be accepted until Dec. 1 and then voted on during the January meeting.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews.