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CURRENT STORIES


State changing focus of homeland security spending

by Gary A. Harki

STAFF WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- West Virginia has spent more than $13 million of the $22 million in homeland security grant money allocated from 1999 through 2003, and the state will have received $52.5 million from the federal government for homeland security by the end of this year.

But there is a stark difference in the way past money has been spent and the way the 2004 money will be spent, said Stephen Kappa, West Virginia director of Emergency Services.

"In November of last year, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge identified West Virginia as a national model in congressional testimony," Kappa said. "We are a model of how to react quickly to a situation on the ground."

Past money was used to equip the state on a regional level to respond to terrorist attacks and emergencies. But most of the $30.5 million in federal money received for 2004 will be doled out on a county-by-county basis.

"Phase-one funds were directed to statewide response capabilities," Kappa said. "Phase two is focusing on improving the capability of local first responders to respond to a weapons of mass destruction incident and sustain that response for up to four hours with no additional assistance available."

This year, and likely in coming years, money will be distributed in this way, said Neal Sharp, West Virginia Emergency Services manager of the Regional Response Program.

"Initial funding was limited at first," Sharp has said. "Now we can take the money and give it to the counties and cities to saturate the state with (emergency and homeland security) response capabilities."

When all of this money has been spent, about $29.03 will have been spent on homeland security for each West Virginian.

Kappa did not release exact locations of the equipment, citing security reasons, but explained how the money has been, and will be spent.

By the end of 2001, $2 million in federal money for homeland security had come in, Kappa said. This was followed by annual payments of $4 million, $16 million and $30.5 million this year, Kappa has said.

The $9 million that has yet to be spent from 1999 through 2003 allocations will go to equip the regional response teams, Kappa said.

Much of the $9 million will be spent on equipment that has already been ordered but not come in yet, such as urban search and rescue vehicles, Kappa said.

"We only bought two of those, one for the north and one for the southern part of the state," Kappa said. "Fully equipped with all the specialty tools ... high intensity torches, concrete saws ... the vehicles will cost around $1.1 million."

The state is divided into six regions, below is a look at the total spent thus far on each:

n Region 1: Charleston $741,500

n Region 2: Wheeling $741,500, Clarksburg $368,500, Morgantown $146,000

n Region 3: (No current estimate available, but $2.5 million when all equipment has been delivered).

n Region 4: Belington $368,500

n Region 5: Beckley $368,500

n Region 6: Huntington $514,500

Region 2, composed of 12 counties, including Harrison, has a population of about 552,000, making it the largest of the six as far as total population, Kappa has said.

Other grants to the region have been awarded that do not fit into the regional response program, Kappa said.

One of the largest awards granted to the region is a $5.8 million interoperable radio system for Harrison, Marion and Monongalia counties. This federal demonstration project is to improve communications between all emergency responders.

Eighty percent of the $30.5 million the state will see in homeland security funds from the 2004 federal budget must go to individual counties.

Funding for 2004 falls into five grant categories:

n Law enforcement -- Money can be used for equipment, such as night vision to monitor areas at a high risk for terrorism. Other options include communication equipment to allow different agencies to communicate with each other.

n Emergency operations -- Each county was awarded $30,000 to equip or build an Emergency Operations Center. Counties that did not previously have such a center can build one. Counties that already have a facility can upgrade equipment and use funds to test the facility.

n County homeland security planner -- Gives participating counties funds to hire a coordinator of all county homeland security initiatives.

n Citizen Corps funds -- Can be used to support Community Emergency Response Training councils in planning, outreach and management activities. CERT teams train volunteers to be better prepared in emergency and disaster situations. Citizen Corps money can be spent on advertisements as well as training and materials.

n Urban emergency response grants -- Money will be used to set up a citywide response capability in the case of a weapons of mass destruction incident. Money can be used for planning, training, exercises and equipment.

Each of the five different grants has specific uses, Sharp said. Money from one grant cannot be combined with the money of another to use on the same project.

But Sharp said it was acceptable for two or more counties to pool money from the same type of grant to purchase equipment regionally.

It is up to each county's officials to decide how to use grant money to best suit their county.

Here is a breakdown of Homeland Security Grant money given to area counties and municipalities:

Counties:

n Harrison:

Law Enforcement Grant -- $213,960

Emergency Operations Center Grant -- $30,000

County Homeland Security Planer Grant -- $50,000

Citizen Corps Grant -- $10,000

Total -- $303,960

n Barbour:

Law Enforcement Grant -- $90,990

Emergency Operations Center Grant -- $30,000

Total -- $120,990

n Doddridge:

Law Enforcement Grant -- $90,990

Emergency Operations Center Grant -- $30,000

Total -- $120,990

n Lewis:

Law Enforcement Grant -- $90,990

Emergency Operations Center Grant -- $30,000

Citizen Corps Grant -- $10,000

Total -- $130,990

n Marion:

Law Enforcement Grant -- $254,950

Emergency Operations Center Grant -- $30,000

County Homeland Security Planer Grant -- $50,000

Citizen Corps Grant -- $10,000

Total -- $344,950

n Monongalia:

Law Enforcement Grant -- $295,940

Emergency Operations Center Grant -- $30,000

County Homeland Security Planer Grant -- $50,000

Citizen Corps Grant -- $10,000

Total -- $385,940

n Taylor:

Law Enforcement Grant -- $131,980

Emergency Operations Center Grant -- $30,000

Citizen Corps Grant -- $10,000

Total -- $171,980

n Upshur:

Law Enforcement Grant -- $131,980

Emergency Operations Center Grant -- $30,000

Citizen Corps Grant -- $10,000

Total -- $171,980

Cities receiving the Urban Emergency Response Grant:

n Buckhannon $50,000

n Clarksburg $100,000

n Bridgeport $35,000

n Fairmont $150,000

n Morgantown $300,000

Part of saturating the state with response capabilities includes incorporating the National Incident Management System into the different counties. The system's goal is to standardize the way disaster situations are handled, said Lee Gray, director of Administration for the Office of Emergency Services.

The program has set an Oct. 1 deadline for implementation.

In the future, as equipment for the response teams is fully in place and counties become more well equipped, much of the focus will be on keeping the response capabilities up to date.

Kappa estimates that keeping all responders well trained costs between $4 million and $5 million a year.

"We will always have a training requirement," Kappa said. "These are highly perishable skills. We need to constantly be training just to sustain the level we have, and be able to work together as a team."

Updating equipment will be the other major costs, Kappa said. New equipment will be bought to keep up with the changing needs of homeland security, Kappa said.