Archive for Thursday, June 24, 2004

County rushes to secure grants

June 24, 2004


Utility plants in Lawrence, Eudora and Baldwin are in line to get new fences, door locks and alarm systems, taking advantage of federal grants designed to bolster homeland security.

Douglas County commissioners agreed Wednesday to use most of the county's $570,000 in federal anti-terrorism grants to bolster security at Lawrence's two water-treatment plants, along with water and electric centers in Eudora and Baldwin.

The decisions came during a hastily called special meeting at the County Courthouse, as commissioners rushed to meet a Friday deadline for submitting projects for financing.

The meeting took nine minutes and began when Commissioner Bob Johnson called the meeting to order -- despite being out of town, and available only by speaker phone. Commissioner Jere McElhaney, who rushed to the courthouse from a work site north of Oskaloosa, sought to end the meeting as soon as possible.

Charles Jones, commission chairman, was stuck in traffic and participated in the meeting's early moments by cell phone. He listened as Paula Phillips, the county's director of emergency management and grant administrator, read spending recommendations into the phone.

By the time Jones arrived at the courthouse, the spending plans were sealed. But that didn't stop Jones from lambasting Phillips and others who failed to get recommendations to commissioners in time for extensive review.

Phillips received word of the grant procedure June 1, but representatives of emergency services didn't meet until Wednesday morning to compile a list of recommended projects.

"I will very begrudgingly go along," Jones said, catching his breath after rushing into the meeting room. "I have to say, this is so bush league that emergency planning, which ought to be thoughtful about these things, throws this stuff together under these conditions."

Commissioners previously have been critical of the grant program, which already has given agencies money to buy a $250,000 mobile command vehicle and thousands of dollars' worth of new communications equipment, database services and other items.

Jones has sounded fears that the millions of federal dollars being used to bolster homeland security likely would end up being a scandal. Jones has sought to expose the county's expenditures to extensive scrutiny, to ensure that no future problems would arise.

McElhaney's take: "We're definitely going to discuss this process at a later date."

Douglas County commissioners approved spending for the following anti-terrorism measures, all funded by federal grant money:¢ $100,000 for a new generator at the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center.¢ $75,000 for security systems for water and electric utilities in Baldwin.¢ $60,000 for security systems for water utilities in Lawrence.¢ $60,000 for security systems for water and electric utilities in Eudora.¢ $55,000 for new air packs to be used by rural firefighters.¢ $42,000 for a new X-ray machine to be posted at the entrance to the Judicial & Law Enforcement Center.¢ $35,000 for a new security system server for the Lawrence Police Department.¢ $32,500 for portable radios, mobile data terminals and other communications equipment for the Douglas County Sheriff's Department.¢ $29,158 to coordinate volunteer efforts.¢ $22,500 for communications equipment for the Baldwin Police Department.¢ $15,000 for new impact-resistant windows and doors at Baldwin's police headquarters.¢ $15,000 for security monitoring for Lawrence Police.¢ $10,000 for communications equipment for the Eudora Police Department.¢ $17,864 for miscellaneous equipment.

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