Stephens Co. Commission Approves New NCIS Unit Memorandum

The Stephens County Commission approves a new memorandum of understanding with the Mountain Judicial Circuit NCIS Drug Team.

On Tuesday, Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brian Rickman and sheriffs from Stephens, Habersham, and Rabun counties appeared before commissioners on the matter.

Stephens County Commissioners had previously approved a memorandum in January, but the drug unit was presenting a new document with numerous changes.

County commissioners expressed concerns about the number of changes in wording to the document.

Rickman said one of the main changes is designed to make the unit’s application for grant funding stronger.

Currently, federal grant funding pays for the salary of the unit commander and secretary and the grant is in place for this year.

However, Rickman said that concerns exist that the federal government will cut that grant funding starting in 2014 and make it harder to get.

“Part of the grant funding is they are asking, ‘Okay, you want more grant money next year, you have to show us you have developed a sustainability plan’,” said Rickman. “(That means) you have gone to your commissioners and gotten somewhat of a commitment that they are going to help you out.”

Stephens County Commissioners also expressed concern that if the grant funding went away, signing this document would commit them to provide additional funding to support the unit.

Rickman said that is not the case.

“The specific statement basically says we will do our best if the grant goes away,” said Rickman. “Number one, I do not think legally a board can commit past a year to funding anyway. Number two, it does not commit the board. You would have to vote on any money you ever give this drug unit and you would be free to turn that down when the time comes.”

Another change in the new memorandum added the city of Toccoa to the document. Officials said that the city has joined the drug unit.

Rickman also gave commissioners a presentation on the unit and the drug problem in the Mountain Judicial Circuit.

Following that presentation and discussion, commissioners approved the new memorandum unanimously.