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Howard Buffett is giving $500,000 to Decatur police to help find drivers high on marijuana. Read the documents.
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Howard Buffett is giving $500,000 to Decatur police to help find drivers high on marijuana. Read the documents.

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Howard Buffett, then the Macon County sheriff, is shown in November 2018. He is donating $500,000 to the Decatur police for an officer dedicated to motorists who impaired by cannabis. 

DECATUR — Howard Buffett's private foundation wants to give $500,000 to Decatur for a new, full-time police officer dedicated to arresting motorists who are impaired by marijuana, alcohol and other drugs. The move comes in advance of the state allowing recreational cannabis use starting Jan. 1. 

The donation was disclosed Thursday in the City Council agenda for Monday's meeting. The donation requires council approval. 



"We are very thankful that the Buffett foundation is once again stepping up to make our streets safe," Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said. 

The resolution outlining the grant agreement says the money would support the salary and benefits costs for a full-time DUI enforcement officer for four years starting next month. The officer would commit 100% of their time to DUI enforcement with a goal of increasing the local detection and enforcement of impaired drivers, according to the document.

MUG - Jim Getz

Getz

The department would move forward with the hiring process if the council members approve of the measure during an upcoming council meeting.

Decatur police Chief Jim Getz said the position would be filled internally. Decatur police plan to hire eight new officers next year. One of the hires would fill the position of the officer chosen for the DUI job.

The total cost of employment — including salary, overtime, Medicare, life and health insurance, and pension — would total $648,458 during the four-year period. 

"We are thankful to the foundation for the funds to provide another officer to keep the people driving under the influence, off the roadways," Getz said. "We want to keep the streets safe."

State lawmakers approved making Illinois the 11th state to allow recreational use of marijuana and let municipalities decide whether sales could be permitted in communities. The Decatur council in October voted against allowing recreational cannabis dispensaries in the city.

Getz said the likelihood of an increase in impaired driving is high based on what he has seen and heard in other states. 

"More access to cannabis would mean there will probably be more people driving under the influence," Getz said. 

Howard G. Buffett Foundation officials were not immediately available for comment.

Buffett, son of billionaire investor Warren Buffett, came to Decatur in the 1990s and was an executive at Archer Daniels Midland. He later was appointed sheriff of Macon County. 

His Decatur-based foundation has contributed millions of dollars to projects in the community, including a $60 million donation to build the Crossing Recovery Center on 495 E. Central Ave. The 27-acre Community Care Campus opened in October. 

Buffett has been critical of states legalizing marijuana

The grant is contingent on the city covering the difference of $148,458 needed to fully fund the position.

In a note to city officials and Getz, the foundation already budgeted for an additional half a million dollars in cash for use by the Decatur Police Department from the proceeds of a farmland sale, which is land returned to the foundation from the Decatur Public Building Commission.

Under the guidelines for the use of the money, the foundation tells the city it would allow a portion of this money needed to cover the $148,458 to fully fund the officer position.


Some of what the Buffett Foundation has funded in Macon County

Contact Analisa Trofimuk at (217) 421-7985. Follow her on Twitter: @AnalisaTro

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