Homeland Security region meets here

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Alabama Department of Homeland Security held a regional meeting on Monday at Rooster Hall in downtown Demopolis to discuss ways to utilize federal funding of $280,000 from a Homeland Security grant program.

Taking part in the program are the 10 counties in Alabama Homeland Security Region 3, which includes Marengo, Greene, Hale, Sumter, Tuscaloosa, Shelby, Perry, Pickens, Dallas and Chilton counties.

“The state divides the money into about five different funds,” said Marengo County Emergency Management Agency director Kevin McKinney. “The funds are for anything from the national stockpile program or the flu vaccination to the new Alabama Fusion Center in Montgomery to disseminate information to law enforcement, law enforcement funding, county funding and mutual aid teams.

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“The counties have to develop projects to present for this funding. This was a regional meeting of 10 counties in west Alabama that met with the Alabama director of Homeland Security to present our project list and project funding amounts for approval.”

McKinney said those projects would go before a regional advisory committee, which would look at the overall amount submitted by the counties and determines if their projects are eligible for funding.

Once the committee selects projects they deem worthy of the federal funding, the counties then present their programs to the state for evaluation, which took place at Monday’s meeting.

“It’s a reimbursement-based program, so the county has to spend the money up front, then we get the money back from the state,” McKinney said. “Last year, in this same process, one of our programs was school bus safety. We applied for funding to put GPS (global positioning systems) tracking devices in all of the county school buses. We received enough funding to do that.

“This year, I asked for additional money for that program to include the city schools and the vocational center. We got approved on that funding, so it will cover our entire county. We also got approval for the City of Linden Police Department. They currently have four cars that are equipped with mobile data terminals. I asked for four more, which would give them 100 percent, but we only got two.”

McKinney said the Demopolis Fire and Rescue Department funding for safety vests for response on U.S. Highway 80. He said that since it became four-laned, Highway 80 has a different classification for roadside safety, and the department needed high-visibility vests when they respond to an incident on the highway.

“Now, we wait for a letter of approval, an authorization to spend letter that (the state) sends out,” McKinney said. “That has to come within 45 days of the grant approval, so we’re hoping around mid-August to the end of August to get that letter, then we spend the money.”