$103,000 in supplies planned for Trumbull to fight terrorists
The money can't be used to pay police and fire officers for training they could really use.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- The Trumbull County Emergency Management Agency was expecting to get about $50,000 worth of terrorism-related supplies this year.
That was before Sept. 11.
About $103,000 worth of terrorism and emergency stuff -- likely to include contamination suits, two-way radios, and a communications tower and rooftop weather monitor for a mobile command center -- will be on the way to the local agency this spring, said Linda Beil, the agency director.
"This is crazy, they are giving out $103,000 for terrorism," said Michael O'Brien, a Trumbull County commissioner, at a budget hearing for the emergency management agency Tuesday.
"I'd like to send it down to New York," said Commissioner James Tsagaris.
What's not covered: The money, from the U.S. Department of Justice, can be spent on whatever equipment the agency chooses, Beil said. But it can't be used to pay police and fire officers for training they could really use.
The primary need is for lessons on how police and fire officers should react when they see a hazardous material fire or spill, and to fit into the command structure used in major disasters.
Free training classes are available through the EMA, but police and fire departments have been cutting back on the overtime that would pay officers to go, Beil said.
"The need for it is definitely there," she said. "They just can't pay anybody to do it."
In trouble: Although the emergency management agency, which receives only $15,000 from the county each year, is flush with cash, the agency with which it shares an office, the Trumbull County Local Emergency Response Commission, is facing a financial crunch.
The commission, which runs on an annual budget of $33,000, is responsible for maintaining records of the hazardous chemicals being stored and used in Trumbull County.
Part of that money comes from the thousands of dollars in filing fees paid by the owners of gas stations when they report their inventory to the local commission.
But under Environmental Protection Agency regulations that went into effect this month, the great majority of gas stations are no longer required to file the paperwork, said Jeff Beattie, a spokesperson for the EPA.
"The general public pretty much knows what is stored at a gas station," he said.
Statewide, gas station filing fees had amounted to $350,000 a year, 80 percent of which was kept by local emergency planning commissions.