PONTIAC - Nearly $1 million has been pledged to fighting drugs and gangs in Livingston County.
The Livingston County Board has approved using landfill use-fee money to pay for members of the county's Pro-Active Unit over the next three years. There was little discussion on the proposal at Thursday's board meeting.
The anti-drug and anti-gang unit is made up of seven police officers from the different cities' departments and the sheriff's department.
The county will pay the departments $45,000 annually for each officer in the unit.
"We have seen a great deal of success with the unit," said Livingston County State's Attorney Tom Brown. "We are making good progress, and for a county our size, we are being diligent at fighting crime."
The contract still has to be approved by leaders in Pontiac, Dwight and Fairbury. Brown said he has discussed the agreement with all the leaders.
The Pro-Active unit, which is overseen by the sheriff and a board comprised of the participating police agencies, was started three years ago to battle growing drug problems in the county.
The unit will be the only one working to fight drug problems in the county, Brown said. Several of the police agencies did have officers in Illinois State Police's multiagency Task Force 6, but they no longer supply officers.
The seven-member unit has three sheriff's deputies, two officers from Pontiac, and one each from Fairbury and Dwight.
The officers remain employees of their home departments, but they work full time for the unit.
The county decided to use landfill money to cover salary and equipment expenses because the member communities expressed concerns over the costs of participating in the unit. Last year, the village of Dwight considered pulling out of the Pro-Active Unit because it was too costly.
The county collects about $8 million a year from landfill users, but that money used to be allocated just for building projects. Last year, the board ended that restriction.
Brown and law enforcement leaders say they believe the unit has played a huge role in fighting drugs in the county over the last three years, leading to several drug arrests from all over the county.
The latest agreement is for three years, but it will be extended unless one of the agencies wants out.
The agreement also requires departments to maintain the number of officers in the unit at all times. Brown says the requirement will maintain the level of work done.