County to receive $170,000 in Homeland Security grants

By Abby Morris
Star Staff

   Tennessee has received an additional $29.1 million in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security -- the vast majority of which will be passed to local jurisdictions. Carter County will receive just over $170,000.
   The money, allocated to the state by the federal government, is earmarked to help first responders improve their ability to deter, and if necessary, respond to situations involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive threats.
   "We get the mandates from the federal government that this is to be used for planning for, training for, preventing and responding to acts of terrorism," Tennessee Homeland Security Director Maj. Gen. Jerry Humble said.
   Local emergency officials in the counties receiving money will be in charge of deciding how the money should be spent, according to Humble. Local officials will be required to apply to the state's Homeland Security office in order to receive the funds. "Then they come back and tell us how they want to spend it," he added.
   The latest round follows $11 million in federal funding that the state and local jurisdictions divided in May.
   Like earlier funds received by the state, most of the new money will be dispersed to all 95 counties. In addition, Tennessee's largest urban area, Memphis, will receive $6.1 million in direct federal funding.
   "We're pleased to be able to pass along additional homeland security dollars to all of our local communities," Gov. Phil Bredesen said in a released statement announcing the new grant monies. "Local police, sheriffs and emergency personnel are on the front line in our homeland security efforts. They need all the support they can get."
   In the coming weeks, grants will be made and allocated from two pools of money.
   First, $25.2 million is being specifically earmarked for equipment, training and planning. Federal rules stipulate that at least 80 percent of those funds must be passed along to local agencies. Under a distribution plan approved by the State Homeland Security Council, nearly 83 percent of the funds (or approximately $21 million) will be allocated to local agencies -- including $17.1 million in direct grants and $3 million in equipment. The remaining funds will be held at the state level to be used for programs that support local efforts.
   Second, $3.9 million is being set aside to reimburse local jurisdictions for higher security costs they incurred -- or may incur -- during periods of elevated national threat levels. How that money is distributed will not be determined until local jurisdictions file for reimbursement, which they are eligible to do immediately.
   "The Bredesen administration is firmly committed to working with first responders to maximize the use of these federal dollars," Humble said. "Our common goal at the end of the day is to strengthen our ability to prevent, protect, and if necessary, respond to terrorism."
   Locally, Washington County will receive $321,594 from the grant money, Johnson County will receive $52,497, Unicoi County $53,001 and Sullivan County $459,144. Shelby County received the most funds from the grant, approximately $2.7 million, while Picket County will receive the smallest allocation, $14,835.
   According to Humble, allocation of the grant was based first on the response capabilities of the region and, second, on the county's population.
   In addition to the monies being specified for counties, Northeast Tennessee will also receive an additional $1 million to promote a centralized effort which would focus on planning and training for, preventing and, if necessary, responding to a terrorist situation, according to Humble.
   The centralized team would work in conjunction with the state certified hazardous materials team that is already located in East Tennessee.