September 11, 2006
Stark County gets $5.7 million to fight terror
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON Millions of dollars in federal funds have helped
Stark County become better prepared for a terrorist attack or
outbreak of disease.
But officials said they still have a long way to go and are
concerned about the effect of shrinking federal dollars to
Stark County has received $5.7 million in combined homeland
security and bioterrorism funding since Sept. 11, 2001.
The money has been spent to equip police, fire and other
first-responders with protective suits and equipment, to improve
communications, to strengthen the public health system, develop
response plans and train for an emergency.
“We are better prepared than we have ever been to respond to
something like the Oklahoma City bombing or what we’ve seen in
the sarin gas attacks in Japan,” said Tim Warstler, director of
the Stark County Emergency Management Agency.
Both events occurred in 1995.
“We’re a lot better off than we were before,” agreed Canton
Health Commissioner Robert Pattison.
Pattison said the county health community is better able to deal
with a disease outbreak than a chemical or radiological attack,
although officials are planning for any possibility.
State officials consider a flu pandemic more likely than a
But Steve Wagner, assistant chief for preparedness at the Ohio
Department of Health, said, “There’s always the potential of
something like anthrax. We’ve taken significant efforts to
prepare for that.”
Officials at all levels of government are concerned about the
effect of decreases in annual federal terrorism funding in the
past couple of years.
Since 2004, federal funding to Stark has dropped by almost
two-thirds, to $601,223 this year from nearly $1.75 million two
“Funding, of course, is starting to become an issue,” Pattison
Wagner said state health officials “have had to significantly
prioritize what it is we do, what it is we maintain and what
(initiatives) we move forward (on) at the point we are now.”
Ken Morckel, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety,
said the state and counties “have to find other funding sources
to maintain the basics of homeland security in Ohio.”
“Federal grants were always meant to be seed money to start
programs, not money that was going to last forever,” he said.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, states have received homeland
security funds that are distributed to county emergency services
agencies and bioterrorism funds passed out to county health
In Stark County, the Canton Health Department administers the
bioterrorism funds, which are shared with three other health
Officials said one of the most important things they have
learned is that localities and the state will have to work
together to respond to any future disasters.
“There’s much better coordination today than there was five
years ago,” Warstler said. “It’s almost a cultural change
realizing you have to rely on resources outside your control.”
Pattison said the health department has benefited from planning
sessions with other officials, training and practice events.
Federal spending on security in Stark County
Year Homeland security Bioterrorism
2002 $167,905 $239,156
2003 $1,323,414 $359,215
2004 $1,355,620 $393,526
2005 $918,145 $313,964
2006 $261,843 $339,380
Stark total (homeland security bioterrorism): $5,672,168
Ohio total (homeland security, bioterrorism): $659,010,000
Source: Ohio Emergency Management Agency, Ohio Department of