04/19/05 — County commissioners disagree with state on Homeland Security spending

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County commissioners disagree with state on Homeland Security spending

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on April 19, 2005 1:47 PM

Wayne County's commissioners disagree with the state's mandate on how the county must spend Homeland Security funds, and they are sending that message to the governor.

This morning, the commissioners unanimously passed a resolution opposing the funding process of Homeland Security grants as defined by the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

County Manager Lee Smith said the state issued some directives on the spending of Homeland Security funds that were in conflict with the county's needs.

Guidelines for the federal grant money encourage states to use the money to put together programs that enhance communication among law enforcement agencies.

State officials want all counties to buy the VIPER communication system. Counties would pay a portion of the cost.

Another VHF trunking system would better serve Wayne County's communication needs, Smith said, and would cost half as much as the VIPER system.

Smith said he talked to law enforcement agencies in the county, as well as the Emergency Management Service and the fire departments about the VHF system. He said that they all agreed the VHF system would best serve the county's needs.

According to the resolution, each county in North Carolina is distinct, and has its own unique safety and security requirements.

"Each county must fully and immediately respond to whatever emergency or disaster occurrence may happen and the state has chosen to restrict the whole of fiscal year 2005 Homeland Security Grant funding to those projects that are regionally based and VIPER compliant," said the resolution.

The communications system Wayne County chose meets all Homeland Security and FCC requirements and mandates, and would save approximately $4.2 million.

"Based on the selection methods specified by the state, the grant award process does not offer the citizens of Wayne County the same level of preparedness afforded other counties in the state, and therefore does not meet the intentions of Wayne County to offer our citizens the maximum level of preparedness available."

The commissioners said they opposed the grant award funding process until the process was modified to "give both fair and equitable consideration to all counties throughout the state."

The county is sending the resolution to Gov. Mike Easley, the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, the Wayne County legislative delegation, all 100 counties throughout the state and to the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.