Mahoning County is receiving about $400,000 less than last year.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning Valley first responders are in line for Haz-Mat suits, sophisticated surveillance equipment and other terrorism-response items to be bought through $1.24 million in federal homeland security grants.
Mahoning County will get $543,315, Trumbull County $462,987 and Columbiana $240,630 of the $26.5 million in funding Gov. Bob Taft announced Thursday for Ohio's 88 counties.
In all, the state received $77.8 million and divided it among six programs, from the state homeland security program ($32.7 million) and emergency management performance grants ($5.4 million) to law enforcement terrorism prevention ($11.9 million).
Four metropolitan areas -- Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo -- will divide $26.1 million.
First responders are law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and others first on the scene of disasters or terrorist acts.
Other items high among local first responders' requests include generators and mobile radios and repeaters, said Mary Smith, deputy director of the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency.
Walter Duzzny, Mahoning County director of Emergency Management and Communications, said he was concerned how far the county can spread its grant when it is receiving about $400,000 less than the $900,000 it received a year ago.
"We have about $100,000 in unencumbered funds left from last year's grant," he said. "To get $543,315 is a big disappointment."
Mahoning has a seven-member screening committee of people with expertise in chemical, biological, nuclear and radiation dangers. That group forwards recommendations to a 27-member panel that approves funding requests.
"We're going to have to sit down and set priorities, see what pieces we can put into place," Duzzny said. "One of the things that has been under discussion is expanding our outdoor warning system of sirens."
Other priorities are decontamination equipment, detection devices and Haz-Mat suits, he said, noting that requests for about $1.5 million in equipment are pending.
To date, Columbiana has distributed $1.26 million to first responders and has requests for more than $600,000 in items, Smith said.
"When we started we sent everyone a survey ... and they listed their needs and sent in an application regarding what they are looking for, what it is, how many they wanted and how much they cost," she said.
A committee of about two representatives of boards of trustees, police, firefighters, hospitals, medics, the FBI, utilities, engineers and others compares available funds with the requests and determines which will be filled.
Those requesting money are limited to items they can show will be used.
For example, there are two different types of Haz-Mat suits, Smith said. An applicant would have to show that it had personnel trained for either the Type 1 or Type 2 suit, and that their certification was current.
"Everyone has to sign a promise to keep the items insured, maintained and available for use," Smith said.
All of the Tri-County EMAs also apply for any grants they believe they have a chance of receiving and stay in contact with state officials to try to land money other counties fail to claim or spend.
Columbiana's Smith said that although the committee has members representing various interests, it has "always looked at what's best for the community."
"The best thing about our committee is that they are the most unselfish people and we have had very little turnover [since its inception in 2000]," she said.