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Police eye donations, grants more than ever

August 8, 2010 | Virginia News

By TED STRONG
Charlottesville Daily-Progress

The Albemarle County Police Department recently opened a satellite office in North Garden. But in a fairly unusual twist, the office is being paid for not by county taxpayers, but by a small bank.

And while non-governmental funding sources remain relatively small in both the county and Charlottesville, they’re present nonetheless, and welcomed more than ever in tough budget times.

In the case of the new satellite office, Old Dominion National Bank is footing the bill for the facility, which is directly above its North Garden branch.

The police department is delighted by the facility, said Lt. Shawn Schwertfeger. It features a bathroom with shower, exercise room, office and conference room. The bank is paying for the continued upkeep and utilities for the facility, Schwertfeger said. No monetary figure for the value of the donation was immediately available.

The Albemarle County Police Department recently opened a satellite office in North Garden. But in a fairly unusual twist, the office is being paid for not by county taxpayers, but by a small bank. And while non-governmental funding sources remain relatively small in both the county and Charlottesville, they’re present nonetheless, and welcomed more than ever in tough budget times. In the case of the new satellite office, Old Dominion National Bank is footing the bill for the facility, which is directly above its North Garden branch. The police department is delighted by the facility, said Lt. Shawn Schwertfeger. It features a bathroom with shower, exercise room, office and conference room. The bank is paying for the continued upkeep and utilities for the facility, Schwertfeger said. No monetary figure for the value of the donation was immediately available. Officers won’t be stationed there, but will use it to do paperwork and make phone calls. The phone line is particularly helpful because cell phone reception in that part of the county is marginal, Schwertfeger said. The office is important because, particularly late at night, it will prevent officers from having to drive all the way back to the county’s main police headquarters, right outside of Charlottesville, to return calls. Doing that takes them out of the sector they’re patrolling and means it takes them significantly longer to respond to calls down that way. “We just felt we could provide something for them that is needed since they’re out in the country a lot,” said the bank’s president, Charles V. Darnell. It’s the second major gift the 3-year-old financial institution has made to the police department of late. When the county launched its push against dangerous driving on U.S. 29 from Interstate 64 to the county line, the bank paid $2,000 to repair a “speed trailer,” which tells drivers how fast they’re going. The repairs involved putting an all-new LED system into the trailer. In addition to donations from the community, the departments also receive grant funding. Charlottesville, in particular, has relied on federal Justice Assistance Grants. “We’ve really been blessed to have those funds to purchase needed equipment,” said Capt. Bryant A. Bibb Jr. of the city police. In his 2009 strategic plan, Charlottesville Police Chief Timothy J. Longo made the push explicit. “The department will also aggressively seek alternative funding sources, including but not limited to federal grants, state grants, private foundations, and corporate donations to supplement city funding,” he wrote. The city also has the Charlottesville Police Department Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds to assist the department, though its president, Randy Castleman is quick to point out that’s not all the group does. “It’s not just all about writing checks,” he said. The foundation provides traditional forms of aid, training and equipment, as well as housing assistance, which is designed to help officers live in the area they protect, despite its relatively high cost of living. It also provides outreach for the police department to the community. But when the department needs help, it also provides some financial support, usually in the range of $25,000 to $40,000 each year, he said. The department’s annual budget is more than $13 million, according to Lt. Gary Pleasants. Castleman said the exact size of the contribution depends both on the economy and what other grants the police department has been able to secure. “If they need a forensics van, or training for new less-than-lethal weapons, like Tasers, we can step up and do that,” he said. Source: Charlottesville Daily-Progress