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Area counties get $400,779 in Homeland Security cash

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Area counties get $400,779 in Homeland Security cash
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Davison County Emergency Management Director Jim Montgomery announced recently that area counties have been awarded $400,779 in federal Department of Homeland Security grants for 2010.

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Davison County is the lead agency for Region 5, an eight-county area that also includes Aurora, Bon Homme, Douglas, Hanson, Hutchinson, Miner and Yankton counties.

Davison County will receive $131,778 of the total amount. The money may be used for digital communications equipment, lockdown systems in schools and other security uses, such as security fencing and camera systems for schools or other public buildings.

Representatives from eligible organizations will meet in the near future to discuss needs and submit a list of requests for the 2010 funds, Montgomery said.

Police and fire departments and school districts do not have carte blanche use of the grant money, he said. The funds must be put to specific purposes that enhance homeland security.

"The Mitchell Fire Division, for instance, would like to get some new bunker gear (firefighting clothing), but that doesn't qualify for homeland security funding," Montgomery said.

State Homeland Security Director James Carpenter met earlier this week with county and city authorities in Mitchell to explain restrictions regarding the 2010 money, Montgomery said.

In the broadest terms, Montgomery said, the money can be used:

n To purchase public notification and warning systems;

n For the development of a National Infrastructure Protection Plan that will allow the sharing of information about terrorist threats and other hazards, and to build security partnerships;

n For the purchase of law enforcement technology that will allow law agencies to share voice or digital data including fingerprints, photos and other documents when responding to a terrorist threat or disaster emergency;

n To improve interoperable communications systems to make them fully compatible with the statewide radio network;

n And for training to develop a swift response to dangers from various explosive weapons, including various chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear devices.

Money for handling explosive devices typically goes to large metropolitan areas that are more likely to encounter bombing scenarios.

In 2009, funds were divided in Region 5 in the following manner: $289,051 for equipment, $65,649 for planning and training, $23,603 for lead-agency funding and $14,162 for management and administrative costs.

Davison County received nearly $160,000 of those homeland security funds and has about $87,400 remaining that must be spent.

Homeland Security stipulated that the money could not be spent until all counties in Region 5 complete their required training exercises. That probably won't happen until late fall, Montgomery said.

Montgomery said that Davison County representatives recently completed a successful multi-county training exercise that proved county radio systems could successfully interface with the state radio communication system in an emergency scenario.

The official results of that exercise will be presented at a debriefing meeting in upcoming weeks, he said.

Twenty-five percent of those funds are required to go to law enforcement, Montgomery said.

The money will be put to good use at the Mitchell Police Division, said Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg. He said the division will use 2009 funds to get 10 police officers in the department's Emergency Response Unit to attend Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) training at the National Guard military training center at Camp Ripley, Minn.

In addition to the training expenses, the grant will also cover and wages and overtime needed to cover the schedules of officers who are attending, he said.

Overweg said the city's fire and police departments are still developing their preliminary equipment list for 2010, but radios will be a strong priority, as well as some tactical equipment. He said the grants give his department a rare opportunity to procure specialized tactical equipment that his department otherwise could not afford to purchase.

Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris said he hopes to procure some equipment that will make his department more effective in water rescues.

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