Wayne Thomas, Staff Writer
Law enforcement agencies in Coffee County are set to receive $265,056.64 in state grant money to help get drunk drivers off the roadways, it was announced last week.
The awarding of the money was announced Wednesday by Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee Department of Transportation Commissioner John Schroer and the Governor’s Highway Safety Office. The goal of the grants is to save lives and reduce injuries on the state roadways through leadership, innovation, coordination and program support in partnership with numerous public and private organizations.
“These grants help fund a variety of safety initiatives across the state, including speed enforcement, first responder equipment, Specialized Impaired Driving prosecutors and child passenger safety training,” TDOT Commissioner Schroer said. “These grants will make a difference and safe lives.
The Manchester Police Department will receive $30,000 to be used for impaired driver enforcement. According to Sgt. Chris Patterson, program coordinator, the Manchester Police Department will be conducting regular saturation patrols as well as DUI check points at various locations and times.
The Coffee County Sheriff’s Department is receiving a grant of $5,000 for high visibility enforcement.
“This will allow us to pay overtime for sobriety check points as well as conducting saturation patrols,” Capt. Frank Walker said Thursday.
The Tullahoma Police Department will receive $13,760 for police traffic services (multiple violations).
“We will use the money to purchase two solar speed signs, funding for DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols,” said Chief Paul Blackwell.
The Coffee County District Attorney’s Office was awarded $216,296.65 to hire personnel for DUI abatement/prosecution enhancement.
“This person will be prosecuting DUI offenders,” Coffee County District Attorney Mickey Layne said. “We have an enormous number of DUI offenses here in Coffee County.”
The prosecutor noted that Marcus Simmons has been hired to serve in the position. He explained that he has been trying to get a DUI prosecutor for some time. “I am thrilled that we have finally been able to obtain one through the grant,” Layne stated.
Layne stated that the DUI laws may be changing based on a recent Supreme Court ruling.
“Officers will be needing to obtain search warrants to get blood and this prosecutor will be invaluable as he will teach the officers how draw up such a warrant,” Layne said.
In addition to the prosecutor being hired, a DUI coordinator will be hired to compile statistics, as well as other duties.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides the grants to the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. The grants, totaling 434 for the 2014 funding cycle, were awarded to 370 agencies across the state that successfully applied for funding based on a defined problem and statistical need. The state awarded $21.1 million in highway safety grants.
“Grants awarded by our office are provided in areas of need,” GHSO Director Kendell Poole said. “Statistics show our problem areas and we strive to put the funding where it will be most effective.”