In February, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said congressional funding for its Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Methamphetamine Program has been exhausted, and that renewed funding in the next few years is unlikely.
That puts the onus on local law enforcement agencies and their funding through city or county governments for any meth lab cleanups.
“It means that individual agencies are going to have to foot the bill,” Martin said. “This (cleanup) is going to impact my budget pretty good — it’s going to cost between $1,000 and $1,500. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve already cut my budget because of the economy, so I guess I’ll have to cut back in other places. It’s hard on a small department.”
Martin said when his budget — which is approximately $1.2 million — was submitted in December the news about DEA dropping cleanup funding had not been announced. He explained he has already planned to set aside money in next year’s budget for meth lab cleanups, but still has until year’s end to see how the economy will impact the city’s finances.
Martin said he has talked with representatives of one of the companies that arrive at the scene of a meth lab to take away chemicals his officers bring out of the structures.
“They said they’d try to work with me and save me as much as they could,” he said.
In the April incident at the Murray Lodge on Treadwell Road, a 2-month-old was taken to a hospital for decontamination but was found to be OK. The baby’s mother, Sarah Fisson, 23, and grandmother, Brenda Harris, 50, both of Murray Lodge, were arrested and charged with child endangerment and manufacturing meth. Fisson and Harris have been denied bond and remain in the Murray County Jail, said District Attorney Kermit McManus.
“We’re waiting on stuff from the crime lab,” McManus said. “The next grand jury in Murray County meets in July, so we may indict the case in July.”
Robert Harris, 30, of the same residence, was taken to the Joseph Still Burn Center in Augusta but was released after a few days. There are two warrants for his arrest, one for trafficking in an illegal drug and one for manufacturing meth with a child present, according to the Murray County Sheriff’s Office. A jail spokeswoman said Robert Harris has not been booked on the charges.
Martin said officers in the area are looking for Robert Harris.
“We’ll catch up with him,” he asserted.
Martin said officials treated the incident as a meth lab from the get-go after fire fighters who responded reported seeing some meth ingredients inside. Officers were able to go inside after obtaining a search warrant and found evidence of a “shake-and-bake” lab in which the drug was made in plastic bottles.