Regional plan draws criticism

County Homeland Security requests get cold shoulder

Moffat County received about $273,000 in Homeland Security grants last year, but this year's allocations may not be so generous, according to Clyde Anderson, Moffat County's Emergency Management Coordinator.

Anderson attended a regional planning meeting Tuesday, where he said Moffat County's needs got a cold shoulder.

"No one as much as looked at our grant requests," Anderson said. "No one even opened our grant packet."

"It's an insult and a slap in the face to everyone who participated," Anderson said.

In previous years, the Homeland Security grant application process was different. Agencies in each county, such as hospitals, fire departments and public health entities, submitted their needs to an emergency manager. The emergency manager distilled the wish list into a grant application that was sent to the state. Each state then requested money on behalf of the counties.

In July, Gov. Bill Owens issued an executive order that divided the state into nine emergency management regions. Now the counties meet to develop regional grant requests and plan emergency management strategies together.

Initially, Anderson was supportive of the regional structure. He said it addressed the lack of consistency between the regional maps drawn by the Colorado Office of Emergency Management and the Office of Preparedness and Security. The COEM had drawn the state into five regions. The preparedness and security offices divided the state into seven regions. Owens' order urged counties to adopt the standardized regional structure.

But the regional paradigm isn't working, Anderson said.

"There's 10 counties in the region, but there's no body of authority," Anderson said. "Who do we go to with a regional issue? Nobody."

And developing a list of regional priorities for the purpose of writing grant requests is next to impossible, Anderson said.

The counties in the region don't share the same needs.

Some counties, for instance, don't have a hazardous materials team. Moffat County already has one.

"We created our own haz-mat team without any help," Anderson said. "But haz-mat is a regional priority."

Regional representatives determined that protective equipment for police was a high priority.

"We did that two years ago," Anderson said.

In some cases, though, Moffat County is lacking where other counties have succeeded.

Anderson wants to upgrade Moffat County's radio communication system to the statewide, digital 800-megahartz system. Other counties already have VHF systems and don't need upgrades.

"Our priority is to switch to the 800-megahertz system," Anderson said. "It's a priority for us but not (the region)."

Anderson coordinated the efforts in Moffat County that brought together representatives from different disciplines of public safety to develop goals for the county. Public health officials, fire department officers, law enforcement authorities and other met to discuss emergency management resources. The committee spent considerable time prioritizing needs. Anderson said he was frustrated that the needs were overlooked at the regional meeting.

"A lot of people did a lot of work to figure out what was reasonable to request," Anderson said. "We want all those (requests) on the table."

Anderson's counterpart in Routt County declined to discuss the regional meeting, except to say that the regional structure "needs to be shot in the heart, but I'm not the governor."

Anderson said he doesn't blame anyone in particular. He blames the regional philosophy that pairs a small county, such as Jackson, with Mesa County. Counties with such divergent geographies, populations and resources don't need the same things.

"How do we think their priorities could match?" Anderson said.

In terms of preparing for emergencies, the counties have different vulnerabilities and need different capabilities for emergency responses.

Anderson said he'll meet with other regional representatives next week to form a plan to protest the situation.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

Commenting has been disabled for this item.