Published: 11 December 2011 07:46 PM

Sixteen San Bernardino County cities waiting for public safety funds are among those watching to see how a budget update dispute among county supervisors will play out.

The county must disperse an $834,114 federal grant that will go to law enforcement programs in the cities and the county by Dec. 29, under the terms of an agreement with the Justice Department. The city of San Bernardino stands to get the largest share of the grant at $176,199 followed by Fontana with $75,370. Other cities that will share in the grant include Colton, Highland and Redlands.

County spokesman David Wert said it’s not clear if the county must forfeit the money if the deadline is not met but county officials want to ensure that the funds are not jeopardized.

Fontana Mayor Aquanetta Warren compared the disagreement to the polarized politics in Washington, D.C., and said she hoped her city and the others would not lose the public safety grant as a result.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to supplement funding for public safety that’s nothing to play with,” she said.

The grant is among $10.15 million in budget changes requested by County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux last month as part of a usually routine first-quarter update. But a disagreement among supervisors has left the board unable to get enough votes at the past two meetings, including last week.

The funds include payments for equipment purchases and vendors who have already completed work, including preschools that are funded through the federal Head Start program.

Jackie Peebles, director of Special Discoveries Educational Services in Lake Arrowhead, said without the payments she is owed — dating back to September — she might not be able to make her rent and payroll.

Wert said the county is helping to keep the preschool program operating by diverting funds from another account but said it’s not an optimal solution.

Also being held up are $5.24 million in legal settlements that the county has agreed to but cannot complete until the payments are authorized, Wert said. Further delay, could compromise those agreements, he said.

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