Presidio Police Department receives Homeland Security grant 

PRESIDIO — The Presidio Police Department received good news last Tuesday when Presidio City Administrator Jose Portillo announced via The Presidio County Facebook page that they have been chosen to receive a homeland security grant worth $156,000.

The grant, which is competitive, was applied for last year by a team led by Portillo and was given to Presidio by the Rio Grande Council of Government. Portillo said the money was used to buy three fully-equipped police vehicles that are much needed by the Presidio Police Department.

Portillo worked with Marisa Quintanilla, regional services director for the Rio Grande Council of Governments, to get the information needed to acknowledge and evaluate the needs present at the Presidio Police Department. That information was then placed before a committee to decide whether or not they would receive the grant.

“We facilitate the process and put the group together to disseminate the applications for [the committee] to review, and then passed on the merit; that is how they prioritize those applications,” said Quintanilla.

Annette Gutierrez, executive director of the Rio Grande Council of Governments, also played a role in facilitating and recommending the Presidio Police department’s application for the grant. Gutierrez said that she was made aware through Quintanilla that new squad vehicles were needed for the Presidio Police Department.

“They presented the application to the committee that there was a need for new vehicles because of the limitations on what was available on hand and because of the age of the vehicles that they were currently operating,” said Gutierrez.

The funding for a grant such as this is given out on a year-by-year basis and Gutierrez said that they try to get money to as many communities as possible in any year.

“This funding source is made available to all of our communities in the six counties that we cover in Far West Texas as Brewster County, Marfa and Alpine have all been recipients of this grant,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez said that she feels the grant was a successful collaboration between the Rio Grande Council of Governments staff — especially Quintanilla — and Presidio, in terms of acknowledging the needs and determining how the funding could best be used there.

Brad Newton, Presidio Municipal Development District executive director, said that receiving the grant was helpful in the sense that Presidio could now focus on funding other areas of the city in a time when that is much needed, and cash flow is limited.

The money for the grant is only given to the recipient after an invoice is shown to the Rio Grande Council of Governments. That being said, Newton and PMDD made the decision to put down the money for the trucks in order to get the invoice and subsequently the grant. Newton and PMDD are doing this to help the city or Presidio keep that $156,000 in the current cash flow as money is understandably tight, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By putting up the money that allows the city to stay in the positive,” Newton said, “it frees up the $156,000 that they would have to lay down otherwise.”

Newton touched on the importance of the timing of this grant as many small cities across Texas, including Presidio, have been spread thin due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Getting this money now has been helpful in relieving some of the financial woes that the city is facing.

“We had a really good opportunity come around, we applied for it, and we were lucky enough to get it because at the time we were applying nobody had even heard of COVID-19; we didn’t know that was gonna be an issue for us, so it just worked out that way for us,” said Newton.

Any grant is a good grant in Newton’s eyes, and while he acknowledged that there are other things that need to be funded, he asserted that public safety is important and if they can save money and still improve it, that allows them to spend money elsewhere.

“We get challenged all the time to go get more grants, and people might say, ‘Well why not go get a grant to fix potholes?’ but there aren’t any grants for fixing potholes, but there are grants for police trucks, so we went after it and saved the taxpayers quite a bit of money,” said Newton.

The trucks have already arrived, and after being inventoried and properly insured, they will be placed into service and used immediately.

When speaking on how badly the Presidio Police Department needed these vehicles, Portillo said that the shelf life of a typical pursuit vehicle is 75,000 miles, but all of the vehicles that were at the police department had between 150,000 to 175,00 miles, and had been in service for many years. He said that budgets can be small and there often isn’t enough money to buy big ticket items such as the new trucks, and so the grant, in that aspect, was a big help.

In Portillo’s post, he states “Needless to say, our officers, our police chief and myself are very grateful to have been awarded this gift that we hope will serve our community for many years to come.”