Canton Repository

November 3, 2002

State sits on anti-terror funds 

By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — More than a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the state of Ohio and local governments are just beginning to spend millions of dollars in federal aid to beef up homeland security.

The aid sent to Ohio is among billions that Congress has set aside to prepare the nation for possible terrorist attacks using chemical,
biological or other types of weapons. Ohio and its local governments have spent only a small fraction of the more than $54 million received this year from the federal government.

Up to now, the state has distributed most of the federal aid to the counties.

The money is designated to buy protective gear and equipment for police, fire and rescuers and to improve the public health
system.

Some counties have begun to buy equipment. Others, such as Stark, haven’t spent a penny of the federal aid.

“We are still in the analysis process,” said Ed Cox, Stark County’s emergency management director. “We’re trying to make the best
decisions we can long-term.”

This year alone:

• The Department of Justice has sent Ohio $17.6 million to improve the ability of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics and
others to respond to emergencies.

• The Centers for Disease Control and the Health Resources and Services Administration have given the state almost $35 million to
prepare the public health system for terrorism.

• The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the state and its largest cities another $1.7 million to protect drinking water
from terrorists.

The aid did not begin to arrive in Ohio until the spring, though the state had received smaller amounts of anti-terrorism funds
distributed before Sept. 11.

The Ohio Emergency Management Agency received $7.7 million of the new money and allocated it to the state’s 88 counties to
strengthen first response. That money can buy protective gear for police, rescuers and other first responders; detection equipment
for chemical, biological and radiological agents; decontamination equipment and communications gear.

While the bulk of that aid remains unspent, another batch just arrived.

In September, the state got $9.9 million and allocated $8.5 million of it to counties to continue strengthening first response. The
funds also can be used to protect power plants and other possible targets.

The state is keeping $1.4 million of the grant to buy protective gear for the state fire marshal, laboratory equipment for the Ohio
Department of Agriculture and medical trailers for state rescue workers.

Another part of the grant will finance a pilot project in Union County to link local police and other government agencies through a
high frequency radio communications system that is being rolled out across Ohio.

The state also has set aside $428,025 from the grant to finance homeland security drills throughout Ohio.

Defining a first responder

But uncertainty about what kind of gear and equipment to buy, and turf battles among local government, have slowed spending of
the federal dollars, state and local officials said.

In Stark County, for example, officials initially looked at buying protective gear for first responders such as police, fire and rescuers.
Then, according to Cox, other stakeholders such as the county coroner and hospitals stepped forward and said, “What about us?”

Since then, a countywide committee that sets spending priorities has decided to spend first on primary responders “and then take a
look at the other categories,” he said.

Looking for guidance

Dale W. Shipley, executive director of Ohio’s Emergency Management Agency, defends Ohio’s decision to give local governments as much latitude as possible to buy equipment that meets their individual needs.

However, he noted that during a recent series of conferences with first responders around the state, local officials expressed “a need
for us, the state government and federal government, to share with local governments some of the research that has occurred and
some of the decisions that have been made on what equipment to buy.''

The state already has offered recommendations on equipment, he said. And, Shipley said it plans to go through a “very difficult to
read” study from the National Institute of Justice to extract more recommendations to share with local governments.

Some counties, he added, are holding onto the money hoping that, when more comes in next year, they will have enough to make
substantial improvements in local communications systems.

Next year, the state anticipates getting another $4.6 million in anti-terrorism funds from the Federal Emergency Management
Agency. That money, too, would go mostly to counties.

Communicating

The state’s public health system has received even more aid than emergency management has, but the money did not arrive until
last month.

In September, the state allocated $11.3 million to 78 local health departments from its $35 million grant. The funds will be used to
develop faster communications and data links between state and local health departments, practice responding to a terrorist attacks
and hire more epidemiologists and other staff to watch for outbreaks of disease or biological warfare.

The goal is to have “enough people and enough resources to respond in an emergency,” said Barb Bradley, head of the bureau of
infectious disease control in the state health department.

She said the state will begin spending the money in earnest in January, and plans to hire about 40 more employees and develop
high-speed communications.