Marysville police exit NET-5
Expenses are climbing for the Yuba-Sutter drug task force even as the agency is shrinking.
The Marysville Police Department has officially pulled out of the Yuba-Sutter Narcotics Task Forced, dubbed NET-5.
"With state budget cuts in place, we simply don't have the funding to continue," police Chief Wally Fullerton explained.
The Marysville agent was reassigned to patrol duties late last month after departmental grant funding expired, leaving the future of NET-5 in question.
Fullerton said his department could continue to look for other grants in hopes of rejoining the task, but said for now, police must focus on providing the most basic services.
"We have a big traffic problem in Marysville, and right now, only one officer is assigned to the unit," Fullerton said. "That needs to be addressed as well."
Sutter County Sheriff J. Paul Parker is the chairman of the NET-5 board of directors. He said the loss of the Marysville agent was expected.
"It's completely understandable for Marysville to pull out," Parker said. "Without the grant funding, they simply don't have the manpower. We did see this coming."
The sheriff said Marysville "has always been a valuable member" and acknowledged the loss of one agent does affect the small task force.
But it is the loss of state funding that put NET-5 in jeopardy, authorities said.
In June, the state cut $71 million from the California Justice Department's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.
Since that time, nearly half of all county-run drug agencies have closed, according to the Justice Department.
Michelle Gregory, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said only 28 agencies remain, down from 52 in June.
Initial budget estimates in October projected more than 200 state agents would be laid-off or reassigned.
However, only 62 agents have been let go since January. It is not clear how many have been reassigned.
"It's still too early to know how this is impacting crime," Gregory said Wednesday.
Officials with the Yuba-Sutter agency, which is one of the oldest in the state, have scrambled since October to find a way to keep the agency solvent.
The good news, Parker said, is the new commander is working as more of an independent contractor, which is also saving each agency a small amount of money.
Retired narcotics commander Martin Huran has been tabbed to oversee the agency. Huran is paid $25 per hour for a 40-hour week and receives no benefits, Parker said.
And agents have continued to conduct marijuana raids and make arrests.
NET-5 authorities were also able to renegotiate rental agreements and hire a new commander to run the task force, but expenses for each remaining agency -- Yuba City police, and the Sutter and Yuba counties sheriff's departments — are expected to climb by more than $20,000 each this year, Parker said.
"It's just getting more costly now," Parker said.
Last year, each agency spent about $43,000 to participate in the task force, authorities said.
Shuffling various grants around has allowed each agency to continue without dipping into general funds. Parker said he is confident no General Fund monies will be requested to run the task force this year.
While there is no immediate plan to shut the task force, the future is anything by clear.
"You just never know. We're in uncertain waters here," Parker said. "It's impossible to predict what may happen even six months from now."
Additional severe funding problems also exist for the Yuba-Sutter gang task force, which only compounds the bleak outlook locally on the future of high-end drug and gang cases.
"Those are two valuable entities that I'd really hate to see go," Parker said.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at email@example.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.