City must get approval to reallocate $300,000 grant left unspent - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

City must get approval to reallocate $300,000 grant left unspent

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The city of Chattanooga still has $300,000 on hold. It's a federal grant intended to help crack down on crime. The Department of Justice awarded the grant seven months ago, but Channel 3 uncovered this week that the money still hasn't been touched.

City officials said they still plan on using the grant money, but some shifts in city leadership have since changed part of its purpose. The new plan is to use it for the Violence Reduction Initiative, but the grant must first be approved -- again.

"Right now we're going through the paperwork, and the whole bureaucracy of changing the scope of the grant," said Dr. Paul Smith, Chattanooga Public Safety Coordinator.

The city applied for the $300,000 federal grant under previous mayor, Ron Littlefield. It was awarded seven months ago with Mayor Andy Berke in office. But the last administration's way of fighting crime doesn't line up with the city's new VRI. According to Smith, that's why the city must revise the grant.

"We're going to try to make it more specific to VRI," Smith said. "And when I say 'more specific', we're targeting issues instead of neighborhoods."

According to the Mayor's Office, spending any of the grant money -- prior to getting approved on tweaking its terms -- could result in compliance issues that would force the city to lose the grant and repay the DOJ.

Smith said that's not going to happen.

"We're not going to be in a payback position," he said. "We're going to make those changes, and that's what's required to not have to pay that money back."

According to the original grant's memo, the intended purpose was hiring a special prosecutor in the District Attorney's office. Instead, the city hired a special federal prosecutor, Meredith Edwards, with its own funds -- one month after the city won the grant. Back in July, Mayor Berke said he wanted to quickly hire a federal prosecutor as part of the VRI.

Smith said he is revising the grant to help fund Edwards' position in the future.

"By the time we figure out the adjustments we need to make, we'll send that to the DOJ, the DOJ will give us a response, and then we'll move from there."

The city will submit the grant revision within the next couple of weeks, and expect to hear back from the DOJ within 30 to 60 days.
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