MATTHEWS – The Matthews Police Department is applying for grants that would add staff, motorcycles and traffic enforcement equipment to its arsenal.
Police Chief Clark Pennington said applying for grants through the Governor’s Highway Safety Program is in line with the department’s pursuit to find new and innovative ways to add officers to meet the town’s growing needs.
“This is one area that I’ve been preaching about since I’ve been in Matthews – the ability for us to drive down the number of traffic collisions we see in town,” Pennington told commissioners Jan. 13.
Pennington asks commissioners for permission for such grants because they usually impact the budget.
For example, Pennington is seeking one grant opportunity to secure an officer and assistant supervisor to enforce traffic, but the award would only reimburse time spent on those specific duties. Calls for service elsewhere wouldn’t be funded.
Also unfunded are things like uniforms and equipment.
The grant would only reimburse a percentage of salary (85% on year one, 70% on year two and 50% on year three and potentially more years). The town would need to chip in an additional $9,000 to make up the difference in what the grant would reimburse for vehicles.
Still, commissioners have been supportive of these grants. Commissioner Barbara Dement thanked Pennington for finding ways to supplement staff and always being aware when grant opportunities exist.
Commissioners allowed Pennington to apply for a grant last year in hopes of getting reimbursements for three traffic enforcement officers, but the police department learned it did not win the grant prior to hiring any staff.
Pennington also plans to apply for a Governor’s Highway Safety Program grant that reimburses the town for two new motorcycles, as well as traffic enforcement equipment.
The Matthews Police Department added two Harley Davidson motorcycles to its fleet last year.
“They have been a huge success for us, allowing us to maneuver the increasing traffic congestion we have in Matthews more easily and readily,” Pennington said.
The grant would reimburse 100% of the costs to buy two 2020 BMW police motorcycles for $57,000, as well as traffic enforcement equipment, including mobile data terminals and speed measuring tools, for $24,000.
“Chief, I have a personal motto: If it’s free, it’s for me,” Mayor John Higdon quipped. “I don’t know why we would ever not take the opportunity to get free stuff.”