FLORENCE — Pinal County has a new $100,000 border protection fund, but it’s more likely to be spent in the local area.
“I don’t know that we would get deployed to the border because we have our own issues right here,” Sheriff Mark Lamb told the Board of Supervisors Wednesday.
The board approved creation of a new sheriff’s “general fund cost center” of $100,000 to cover travel, housing, overtime and other expenses related to the protection of Arizona’s southern border. The money comes from the county’s General Fund financial stability reserve.
Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has said the state will work to protect its southern border after the federal government’s failure to do so. Pinal County would ask to be repaid if called upon to assist the state, but reimbursement may not be available if Pinal is asked to help another sheriff’s department, Cavanaugh said.
Vice Chairman Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, said he was contacted by several constituents who were concerned about the county sending personnel to the border. But Lamb replied that his agency has enough border-related problems right here.
Lamb said one of his department’s dogs responded to seven traffic stops in one day, all related to human smuggling. The amount of fentanyl coming into the country through Pinal County “should be alarming to every American,” he added. He said his department is doing its best to combat these issues and does a good job of staying within its budget.
“We work with federal funds, state funds. Any funds devoted to this issue are welcome and needed … this (new) fund is to ensure there are funds available should we see an influx in the amount of human trafficking (or) the drugs coming across even more than what we’re already seeing. This gives us the ability to put some hard-hitting efforts together to combat it and not dip into or go over budget,” the sheriff said.
Serdy pressed Lamb to be specific that the new $100,000 fund is intended to cover extra expenses in Pinal County.
“That’s correct,” Lamb said. “We have not been asked to send anybody to the border. We’re dealing with our own unique circumstances, even though we are not on the border, we are a very highly trafficked county,” with drugs carried through the desert and illegal cargo on the interstate highways, Lamb said.
Supervisor Steve Miller, R-Casa Grande, asked about the county’s chances to be repaid. Lamb replied that for federal grants, the Sheriff’s Office typically has to spend the money first and await reimbursement, and a state grant would probably work the same way.