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HUNTINGTON - Members of Huntington City Council approved an ordinance Monday night allowing city police officers to work with Cabell County Sheriff's deputies under a federal grant.

The $44,000 grant is through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program will be split between city and county police.

Huntington Police Chief Hank Dial said the grant is used to pay for officers performing drug interdiction patrols and for community education programs.

"I think its important to point out that what these type of grants do, they allow us to have the overtime available to provide police service throughout the city without it being necessary to increase our budget," Dial said. "We are able to provide a lot more service through our partnerships, with our federal partners, than we would be otherwise."

The ordinance was previously met with some resistance when it was introduced for a first reading on Aug. 26. Several community residents spoke out against the grant, fearing it will allow immigration officials to conduct immigration raids. They also opposed a resolution permitting Mayor Steve Williams to apply for the grant, which council members later approved.

The community members said a new appendix added to the grant application by the Trump administration opens the city up to raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency.

However, City Attorney Scott Damron said the statute relating to communication between local governments and ICE has been on the books since about 1996. Agreeing to the grant's terms is an agreement that the city will comply with all federal laws, he said. No one spoke against or in favor of the ordinance Monday night.

Also during Monday night's meeting, council members approved the purchase of one new engine for the fire department and five new Ford Interceptor SUV's for the police department.

The new fire engine will be made to specification by Johnson's Emergency Vehicle Solutions of Wellston, Ohio, for $518,787.

Fire Chief Jan Rader said the fire engine will be a Spartan-brand truck similar to one that was purchased for University Station No. 2. That fire engine was painted Kelly green in honor of Marshall University, but the new engine will be the classic red. Firefighters have worked a few fires with the Spartan truck and are happy with it, Rader said.

"We would like to get to the point where we have a lot of Spartans in the line," she said.

Money to purchase the engine was previously set aside by council members in the 2019 to 2020 fiscal year budget. It will take approximately a year to build the engine and have it housed at Centennial Station No. 1, Rader said.

The fire department's fleet has previously been a cause for concern after a rescue boat and two ladder trucks broke down from a lack of routine maintenance. An independent review recommended the department create a fleet maintenance program, which has since been implemented.

The five new police SUVs will be 2020 Ford Interceptors, purchased for $178,035. Council members also approved purchasing five new Watchguard-brand cameras for the vehicles for $26,725.

Dial said this will make 19 new vehicles purchased by his department since February 2018. This means that no older model vehicles are being used as "front-line vehicles," he said.

Money to purchase the new police vehicles and cameras were previously set aside by council members in the 2019 to 2020 fiscal year budget.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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