County EMA misses deadline for funding

LISBON – There will be no federal Homeland Security money for the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency in 2013 because the EMA missed the filing deadline.

Deputy EMA Director Edie Dillard said the missed deadline was something that just fell through the cracks during all of the personnel changes that occurred last year. She was referring to the fact that Deputy EMA Director Tim Long resigned in April, followed three months later by the departure of Director Darren Dodson, who quit to take another job.

Dillard, who was serving as administrative assistant at the time, said Dodson was in charge of the Homeland Security grant application, which was due Aug. 31. His last day as director was July 20.

“Without Darren, we didn’t meet the deadline,” she said.

County commissioners had hired a replacement for Long in July but the replacement worker quit in October. Meanwhile, commissioners waited until January to hire a new director, Luke Newbold, which is when Dillard was promoted to deputy director.

Dillard said the Homeland Security grant program has changed over the years since it was first established in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Not only have the annual allocations declined by more than half, but counties are now required to compete for the money.

For example, the EMA received $120,179 as recently as 2010, which is the last time this newspaper reported on how the annual grant allocation had been spent. The figures dropped to $70,000 in 2011 and then $61,782 last year.

The entire 2011 grant award went to pay for hazmat training and equipment for the East Liverpool Fire Department, which is the state-designated hazardous materials response team for the county. Even though the money went to East Liverpool’s hazmat program, the hazmat team is available to serve the entire county when needed.

“With all of this pipeline stuff we really need something like this,” Dillard said, referring to the oil and gas drilling boom under way in the county.

Of the $61,782 received last year, $6,700 was awarded to the Liverpool Township Fire Department for a generator. Another $31,337 went to purchase 48 new portable radios at the EMA and new batteries for 20 older radios, which Dillard said were needed to bring their portable radios in compliance with new federal bandwidth requirements.

She said $3,059 from the 2012 grant allocation went to purchase search-and-rescue equipment for the Wellsville Fire Department, while about $4,461 will be used to purchase additional gear for East Liverpool’s hazmat team.

The East Liverpool Health Department is also receiving $2,424 to purchase 25 cots, blankets, pillows and pillow cases to outfit a temporary emergency shelter at a local church. Like the hazmat team, Dillard said the cots will also be available to the EMA for use should the need arise.

This leaves a balance of about $18,262 remaining from the EMA’s 2012 grant allocation, which the advisory committee still has to work with. The committee consists of the EMA and representatives from local safety forces and other first responders, as well as area hospitals.

Meanwhile, Newbold took the opportunity to talk about his first six weeks on the job, praising Dillard and Rudy Sacchet, the state radiological analyst assigned to the local EMA because of its proximity to the nuclear power plant in Shippingport, Pa.

“They’ve been just great getting me trained up and introducing me to all the first responders,” Newbold said, adding he is making it a point to introduce himself to all of the emergency personnel around the county.

Newbold, who is from Lisbon, recently retired after 14 years as a Navy SEAL but will remain in the reserves.

“I’m very fortunate to be back in my hometown after being gone for 14 years,” he said.