The OVI Task Force will be back in full swing over the next 12 months, thanks to a grant written by Canfield assistant police Chief Scott Weamer and Mayor’s Court clerk Nicole Mariani. Canfield will host the task force for the next grant year that runs from Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012.
“Scott and Nicole put many hours into putting the grant application together,” said Canfield police Chief Chuck Colucci. Their hard work got the grant.”
The grant was awarded to the Mahoning County OVI Task Force in the amount of $152,936.85. According to Weamer, it will cover payroll, education, training, officers and equipment needed to clamp down on drinking and driving.
The grant comes from The Federal Highway Safety Act of 1966 that directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation to administer various highway safety projects. The federal grant program provides federal funds administered through the Ohio Department of Public Safety, Office of Criminal Justice Services to eligible entities to be used for traffic safety education, enforcement and engineering projects.
Colucci said from 2004 to 2010, the Goshen Police Department wrote the grants and hosted the county’s OVI Task Force. The results of the traffic blitzes and the OVI check points helped lower the fatalities related to drunk driving, which took Mahoning County out of Ohio’s top 10 areas with high OVI crash fatalities.
When the 2011 year rolled around, the county was no longer in the top ten and the funding was cut. Since then, the OVI related fatalities have increased.
“Over the last year there was an alarming increasing in OVI fatalities,” Colucci said. There were five or six in Boardman alone last year.”
With the numbers heading back up, Weamer and Mariani set out to get the grant back. Colucci said they had the support of the city.
“The city [officials] supported and encouraged us to go for this grant,” Colucci said. “For everyone involved, it is a way to help keep the people in our community and in the county safe. Families travel our roads and it is a selfish decision that can impact innocent lives.”
Canfield will not own the OVI Task Force, but will simply serve as the host of the program. The funding will come into the Canfield PD, but will have to be used for the Task Force. The force is made up of officers from almost every Mahoning County police agency. They pool together the manpower and are able to crack down on drinking and driving.
Weamer said county residents can expect to see the sobriety check points, coordinated traffic blitzes and stepped up patrols by individual organizations in their own jurisdiction.
At the end of the grant year, Weamer said he will seek to keep the program going.
“As long as we qualify, we’ll continue to write this grant,” he said.