Tonawanda News — A federal grant was awarded to the Twin Cities this week to purchase equipment for SWAT team members, perhaps underscoring the recent efforts of both municipalities to move toward sharing services.
The Tactical Team Grant Program will send $99,995 to the cities through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Grant Program.
“This funding is being provided to improve and develop tactical team capabilities through equipment, training, exercise and planning projects that support counter terrorism missions in both cities,” said Jerome M. Hauer, New York state commissioner of Homeland Security, in a statement.
But while the risk of a terrorist attack in the Twin Cities may be slim, the funding will be used to enhance the municipalities’ “Tactical Team,” according to North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt.
Two members of the North Tonawanda SWAT team applied for the grant to obtain equipment for the team that “we may have not been able to afford through the budget process” said North Tonawanda Police Chief William Hall. The outfit is made up of officers from both cities’ police departments.
About 300 similar grants were awarded to police departments across the state through a competitive process that judges statistics, the size of the departments and the population served.
In recent years, North Tonawanda has held the line on the size of its police department as it contends with a shrinking populace and a state-mandated 2 percent tax cap.
“One of the biggeÎst blocks of the grant is for upgrading the tactical vests worn by the team members,” Hall said.
Ortt, who noted the SWAT team often assists other departments in Erie and Niagara counties, said the fact the the funding will be used for both cities is likely a leading factor for the award.
“I think that’s one of the reasons we got the grant,” he said. “The state is looking at that and this is obviously an example of shared services and the shared responsibility.”
City of Tonawanda Police Chief Bill Strassburg said it would allow the SWAT team to purchase “state of the art equipment.”
“It is one more fine example of the collaboration between the Twin Cities that benefit both communities,” he said.