PEMBROKE — The state has quit funding a grant for the Pembroke Police Department because the department was not living up to the conditions of the grant.
According to Don Nail, executive director of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, the program is no longer funding the two-year effort, which paid salaries for two traffic enforcement officers. It also funded two patrol cars and the accompanying equipment.
“We had been having some issues with the project over the last year and we made several attempts to resolve those and make sure taxpayer dollars were being spent for what they were supposed to be spent on,” Nail said.
Nail said there were several instances during which the officers were fulfilling duties other than traffic enforcement, such as going on general patrols. Nail said those actions were outside the conditions of the grant.
“That’s the catch — it’s got to be for 100 percent traffic enforcement,” he said. “… They shouldn’t be away from traffic duties for the majority of their time.”
Nail said the officers were away from traffic duties “for a considerable amount of time of the time that we were paying for.”
Interim Town Manager Marie Moore said the officers did respond to calls other than traffic enforcement. The town received a letter informing it of the decision on April 30.
“… Lots of times, they might have had to assist if there was a call that went out and if there was no one else, they would assist,” she said. “That has happened in the past with other grants, with another grant that they’d had. I guess it’s a different time now.”
Moore said the town’s course of action hasn’t been discussed.
“We’ll probably retain the officers,” she said. “That hasn’t even been discussed yet. We’re still in the process of trying to find out what the cost is going to be, what we would have to reimburse for.”
According to Nail, the grant was set up so that Pembroke would be reimbursed for expenditures it made. In 2011, the town spent $152,726.94 and was reimbursed $129,817.89. That included the cost of the two cars and equipment, which totaled about $98,000.
So far in 2012, the program has reimbursed the town $10,866.30 for salaries, Nail said.
Nail said the state monitors each of the projects and keep monthly reports on them, which is how the misuse of money was discovered. Additionally, the federal government twice a year pulls certain projects to examine.
“They pulled the Pembroke project and saw the difficulties we were having,” Nail said. “That kind of spurred things along even quicker.”
Nail said the money that the Governor’s Highway Safety Program gets for grants comes from the “highway safety pot of money from the U.S. Department of Transportation.”
Pembroke Police Chief Frank Hernandez could not be reached.