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County takes care of fine print, red tape

It was just a routine bit of fine print and red tape, but it could preserve thousands of dollars in grants for the county in Homeland Security.

County officials have unanimously approved a resolution adopting national emergency response protocols. The federal government wants emergency responders to use the same, standardized procedures across the nation in its response to disasters.

This is a protocol the county was actually already following in its emergency response plans, but now it has all been signed on the dotted line, so to speak.

Alan Wells, assistant director of emergency management, explained that much of the grant money that has been available is heading toward Homeland Security. To have a shot at those grants, the county must officially adopt the protocol, something that’s not necessarily spelled out in the grant requirements.

“If you don’t have this, you won’t get the funding,” Wells said. “You have to participate fully in the program to get funding.”

Wells will take the official training first, and then he will be available to train others in the county, he explained. Members of the Sheriff’s Department, Road and Bridge and 911 are among the county employees that should be formally trained to preserve the county’s chances for future Homeland Security grants.

Dan Bullock, director of the county’s emergency management system, said the county is already receiving some money from Homeland Security, mainly for new radios.

Bullock explained that one problem 9-11 brought out was that not all the emergency response agencies could communicate with each other. Their radios weren’t compatible, and so one focus of Homeland Security has been addressing that problem.

The county has so far received one $18,000 grant for radios and another $58,000 grant for the same kind of equipment. The grants went to different agencies.

The federal goal, Bullock said, is for every agency in the nation to have compatible radio equipment by 2008 so the EMS, fire and police can all talk to each other.

Funding for Homeland Security is on the way up – but funding for the drug task force that covers the Troop C area is on the way out.

As reported in an article in the Thursday edition of the Daily Journal, Bullock said this year is the last year for federal and state funding of that program, which has put a number of methamphetamine labs out of business.

Manpower for the task force is going to be greatly diminished, though close cooperation between the agencies making up the task force will likely continue. Bullock says the county is picking up the tab for its methamphetamine officer. That individual will continue to handle St. Francois County’s drug cases, but may have to handle a few others as well.

Bullock said he has been told the drug task force money is being put into Homeland Security. It will likely help fund federal drug enforcement efforts as part of the war on terrorism. It was reported this past year that a link between drug money and terrorism existed in some cases.

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