July 6, 2013 6:40:26 PM
The city of Columbus is applying for two grants that would provide funding for improved crime lab equipment and police patrol speeding enforcement, as well as upgrades to Columbus-Lowndes County Airport.
Councilmen gave federal programs director Travis Jones the green light last month to apply for a justice assistance grant through the Mississippi Department of Justice, which would reimburse the city up to $12,107 to purchase equipment for the Columbus Police Department's forensic lab and its patrolmen.
Part of the money would be used for a compact digital lidar system, which Jones said provides improved detection of vehicle speeds in congested traffic.
"The lidar system would provide extreme accuracy and cutting edge technology for the department's anti-speeding campaign," Jones said.
The other portion would go toward purchasing a ninhydrin acceleration chamber, which is an incubator that helps in solving cases involving fingerprinting.
"This new piece of equipment would allow for temperature and humidity control through an exterior instrumentation panel," Jones said. "This would allow the process to be developed in a controlled (environment) manually or automatically and would reduce variability within the process by decreasing health risks to personnel conducting the analysis."
Any money spent in excess of the $12,107 would come out of the forensic lab budget, Jones said.
Ninety percent, or $97,380, of an $108,200 airport improvement grant would be funded by the Federal Aviation Administration if it accepts the joint application from the city of Columbus and Lowndes County. The Mississippi Department of Transportation would pitch in another five percent, or $5,410, leaving the city and county to pay $2,705 each for the remaining five percent.
Jones said those grant funds would be used for several deficiencies at the city-and-county-owned airport, the first of which being the relocation of its new wind cone.
"The existing wind cone is blocked by trees located on private property. This affects the reliability of the wind cone itself, which gives pilots a false reading about the wind direction and velocity," Jones said. "In essence, the existing wind cone is obsolete and needs to be replaced."
Another issue the grant would address would be the airport's layout plan update (ALP), Jones said.
"The existing ALP is not accurate and it's outdated. This project will include planning for runway safety and airport capacity and correcting all the existing inaccuracies already in the layout plan. It will update to reflect all the recent improvements that have been made out at the airport," he said. "It will help study runway extension to increase aircraft operations. Right now you have to do a layout plan to make sure that you can handle the increased traffic and increased capacity. By updating that plan, that will give them better insight as to where they are in attracting more traffic out there."
Finally, funds will go toward installation of an automatic weather observation station, which would be set tentatively for the upcoming fiscal year if the grant is approved.
Councilmen gave Jones the go-ahead to apply for the airport improvement grant last week. Jones said it would likely be September before he learn the final status of the grants.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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