Elma will get drug-sniffing dog

ELMA - After months of anticipating grant money, deliberating with the union over specialty pay and discussing long-term costs, the Elma City Council has approved allowing the police department to get a drug-sniffing dog.

The dog “should be available on the streets in March,” Police Chief Jeff Troumbley said. “This will be a valuable asset to our community in helping us resolve our drug issues.”

The dog will live with Officer Josh Wheeler and accompany police on drug cases.

In earlier council meetings, council members voiced concern about the costs to the city after the grant money runs out.

“You just have to go through this in a step-by-step process to make it happen and get the majority from the council,” Troumbley said.

Elma was awarded a nearly $10,000 grant, which will pay to outfit one of the department’s vehicles to transport the animal, for training and for other needs, such as veterinary check-ups.

The grant runs out in June 2010.

Wheeler will begin training with the state Department of Corrections in January, the chief said. For six weeks he will learn how to work with the dog, followed by periodic ongoing training.

“But that’s just to keep them sharp,” Troumbley said.

The Department of Corrections will provide the dog.

Troumbley said Wheeler will receive a 4 percent pay increase. After the grant runs out, the city will pay about $5,000 annually for the dog to cover Wheeler’s specialty pay and the dog’s care, Troumbley said.

“Now we’ve got to get a drug cat,” Mayor Dave Osgood joked Monday night after the dog was approved.