Fort Smith Police Department Receives $125,000 Grant, But Not Without Dispute

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)-The Fort Smith Police Department will be getting a boat, a SWAT team robot and night-vision goggles all thanks to a $125,590 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“During critical incidents, based on our geographical location, and the world we live in today, these are items that would be critical for us to effectively and efficiently serve citizens,” Sgt. Daniel Grubbs said.

City Director Keith Lau ultimately voted for the police department to take the grant money at the Board of Directors meeting Tuesday (Feb. 3), but not without raising questions.

“It’s not that the department doesn`t need it, it’s that we have a deficit in our general fund, which is where police is funded from,” Lau said.

Police administrators informed city directors the money can`t be used towards the city`s $2.1 million general fund budget deficit.

“Those are paid for by a government grant, you know, the deficit within our budget, those are two completely separate entities,” Grubbs said.

“It`s just one of those things where it`s a Catch-22 because it`s use or lose it,” Lau said.

The Fort Smith Fire Department’s Bomb Response Unit has two bomb-detecting robots and two rescue boats bought by federal grant money as well.

“We roughly get 30-40 calls a year on bomb squad,” Battalion Chief Tery Graves said. “We've been a bomb squad since 2004 so we've utilized our robot quite often.”

Grubbs said for years, they’ve had many emergency situations happen at the Arkansas River, but they’ve always had to contract out other assistance, even asking for the help of civilians at times.

“I think this is important for our city going forward that we have the means to immediately respond on our own accord and our own equipment,” he said.

The police department is looking to buy the new equipment through local vendors as soon as possible.