Generous $1.2 million donation keeps streets safer

By Lindsey Gordon

Published 07/09 2014 10:06PM

Updated 07/11 2014 11:51AM

Update: 10:08 pm, 7/10/14, Thursday
MACON COUNTY -- Good news for area law enforcement. The county board voted unanimously to approve a $1 million grant. It will let the county keep two officers on the road fighting drugs and drunk drivers. It will also pay for an investigator in the State's Attorney's Office. The sheriff says it will make the county safer at no cost to taxpayers.
Original: 10:06 pm, 7/9/14, Wednesday
DECATUR -- A generous donation will keep streets in Macon County safer, as state grants run out. Thursday, the county board will approve a $1.2 million grant. WCIA-3's Lindsey Gordon has more.

The money will allow the Macon County Sheriff’s Office to keep two officers on the street and pay for an investigator for the State’s Attorney’s Office.

"Do the taxpayers of Macon County realize that the Howard G. Buffet Foundation just put $1.2 million back into their enforcement efforts and assisting the public and doing everything they can?" said Sheriff Tom Schneider.

The grant will pay for three positions for four years, including benefits. It will also provide a new vehicle and state-of-the-art equipment for each.

"Fully-funded, four years, all equipment, no expense to the county, officer out there on the streets doing nothing but making sure that they're safe," said Schneider.

He says it means he can keep a DUI enforcement officer and a drug enforcement officer. If they had to be cut, it would make the streets less safe, especially where drugs are concerned. They’re dealing with synthetic drugs, methamphetamine, and a surge in heroin use.

“If we can do whatever we can to keep those out of the hands of any individual, then I think we're a better community," said Schneider.

When the county board first heard about the donation, chairman Jay Dunn says he was shocked.

"You could see a few chins drop on the table there when they brought it up, because it was like, 'Wow, that's a lot of money' and they were surprised and elated," he said.

Dunn thinks the new investigator position which will focus on elderly victims will be very busy.

"We've had a lot of scams going around in Macon County taking advantage of them," he said.

The sheriff says the grant comes with no strings attached, but once the money runs out, there is no guarantee they can keep these positions.

"No matter what, if we get to continue it, that's fantastic. If we don't, then we'll make the adjustments needed to make sure our budgets come in right," said Schneider.

The sheriff says the Howard G. Buffet Foundation has been generous to Macon County in the past. Howard is the son of billionaire Warren Buffet and he lives in Decatur.

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