Homeland security funding down in Maine

Allyson Hill had been warning her towns for a while: The money is going away.

She wasn't wrong.

In 2004, the heyday of U.S. Homeland Security grant funding, Maine towns and cities split $22 million. In 2011, they shared $6.2 million.

In 2012, money being spent now, it's down to $2.8 million.

"They've all been ready for this to start happening," said Hill, emergency management director for Oxford County, where towns asked for night-vision goggles, an antenna and portable radios.

Funding for 2013 isn't yet set. It might be at last year's levels, at best. What is perhaps the larger surprise: Some Maine emergency management leaders aren't lamenting the loss.

Hill is looking to move away from, "'We need a truck' or, 'We need this kind of software.'"

She wants to go back to "everybody getting together and figuring out how best to deal with certain situations," she said.

Androscoggin County EMA Director Joanne Potvin, who has received hundreds of thousands of dollars, this past year spent $52,813.

If spent wisely, it's possible to be all geared up by now, she said.

"You can only buy so many sets of turnout gear," she said. "You can only buy so many computers. After a while you say, 'Gee, I'm not sure what we would buy this year.' We've learned over the years we make do with what we have.

Potvin added, "Our emergency response really doesn't rely on the equipment that we have but it's on the personnel and their know-how and how ingenious we can be if we need something and we have to make it on the fly."

Bill DeLong, Maine Emergency Management Agency's division director for Homeland Security, said funding has dipped around the country. Nationally, those grants declined from $2 billion in 2011 to $1.3 billion in 2012.

Maine recently changed the way it spread the funds, from statewide competition to a system that gives each county a set amount based on factors such as population.

After setting aside money for police and special teams, Potvin told her towns they had $3,809 each. Lisbon put it toward 12 Fire Department pagers, Sabattus toward three desktop computers, Turner toward shelter supplies such as cots and Durham toward phone jacks and other equipment for its new emergency operations center in the fire station.

Potvin's grant coverage area doesn't include Lewiston or Auburn, which get special funding for larger cities.

In Oxford County, Hill helped divvy up $72,110 among projects such as night vision goggles for Rumford police ($4,500) and improved security at the regional communication center in the county building in Paris ($15,000.)

In Franklin County, EMA Director Tim Hardy picked projects that benefited the entire county. He spent part of $42,607 on a stand-alone radio tower outside a new dispatch center and a planner who will visit every fourth- and fifth-grade classroom in the next year with an emergency preparedness lesson.

DeLong said statewide communications projects, such as mobile radios for vehicles and portable radios for people, were popular. 

"In the last couple years we've done school security projects, which in hindsight was smart of us," he said.

In schools, money has gone to cameras, training and emergency plans.

As a result, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Connecticut last month, "we were able to very truthfully and honestly answer when people started asking questions, 'What have you done?'" DeLong said. "There was no question in our mind that we were doing the right thing and have been for years, and we're better off. Not necessarily that it wouldn't happen to us, but there's a possibility that we would be just that much more prepared."

While Homeland Security grant funds were spurred by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a decade of planning and preparation have put the state in a better position to respond to incidents man-made and not, he said.

DeLong hopes the money continues to come to Maine for that reason, at some level.

"Whether it's an accident, whether it's intentional or whether it's natural, that bit of preparation that you did, that little bit of resilience that you built is going to serve that community in the ensuing days after an event," DeLong said.

Funding for 2013 is currently stuck in Congress. DeLong understands the grants may be flat-funded but is skeptical.

"I would hate to see this money go away completely because we have ongoing programs and training," Hardy said. "We are communicating and working with our schools (now) to update their emergency plans and maybe refocus a little toward some of the things we should be looking at.

"That's just an example of the ongoing things that change from minute to minute, day to day," he said.

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Penny Gray's picture

It would be very interesting

It would be very interesting to see an accurate accounting of exactly what these tax payer dollars were spent on to keep us safe and secure. Will night vision goggles save the day in the next prolonged power outage due to an extreme weather event or EM pulse? Setting up schools/hospitals to survive prolonged power outages (generators etc) and keep people warm and safe would seem to take priority over...night hunting?

Janet Jamison's picture

Correction...

The correct quote is: We have seen the enemy and he is us !

Janet Jamison's picture

We have seen the enemy, and

We have seen the enemy, and it is us...

MARK GRAVE's picture

Night vision goggles? What a

Night vision goggles? What a damn waste of taxpayer's money.

You do notice that after a decade of money, not one agency said enough. Ironic that they always found ways to spend it. Night vision?

Wasteful :'(

David Rackliffe's picture

Wasteful?

Well, I'm sure that if you or a loved one were lost or injured and incapable of making your whereabouts known and you were found by a police officer or firefighter using those night vision goggles, you would not be so quick to judge that they are wasteful. We the people need to start directing our legislators in where our tax dollars go. The biggest problem is the lobbyists are paying our legislators to agree to spend our tax dollars on their particular project. Return the power to the people, not the elite.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Even a better solution

The best answer is to keep the money in the people’s wallet.

Janet Jamison's picture

Does every podunk police

Does every podunk police department need top military grade equipment....?

MARK GRAVE's picture

Absolutely not, it appears to

Absolutely not, it appears to be more like they had money burning a hole in their pockets and some Einstein thought that purchasing night vision glasses was a brilliant idea.

I’ll repeat myself – what a waste of taxpayer’s money!

MARK GRAVE's picture

So please tell me how many

So please tell me how many lives have been saved due to night vision glasses?

That said, if there is a need for this equipment, which is very, very in frequent, why can’t authorities arrange to borrow this equipment from the National Guard.

Now ask yourself whether that money would have been better spent elsewhere is solve a really and known problem instead of something that might be. Better yet, ask yourself whether that money should have been spent at all considering it probable added to the national debt.

MARK GRAVE's picture

Correction

" is solve a really and known " - "to solve a real and known"

Steve  Dosh's picture

Homeland security funding down in Maine

Kate et. al., 13.01.05 18:30
. Homeland Security \ T S A / the Federal B I and other Federal level intelligence agencies such as the C I A and N S A , A T F ( alcohol , tobacco , and firearms - U S Treasury ) , Army , Navy , Air Force right now are suffering from the usual lack of focus and direction
Money is not the problem
The biggest threat within these U S of A borders is on the front page of these fine news sources , TV & radio every single page of the week , i. e. , domestic terrorists with guns
Deny it someone
Full metal jacket rounds and assault rifles serve only one purpose : to kill people . It is next to impossible to turn a gun into a plowshare . The dirty deed is built right in to weapons . It was a political choice when the arms makers in Russia , USA , Germany , and France made them all
Guns or butter ? Give us butter and milk , t y v m , Mainers . /s , the non - gun owners and other thoughtful slednecks , sports men and women ?
†rivia question : Q: What does the Coast Guard fall under ? A : You guessed it : Homeland Security . And well they should . . ...We love our Coasties

MARK GRAVE's picture

You are right that money

You are right that money (I.e. Government spending) is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem comes from people who think one nut is a the center of the universe. People who react emotionally. People who cannot analyze risk.

God save use from those people.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Case in point Ed. , 18:50

Case in point Ed. , 18:50 Saturday
http://www.sunjournal.com/news/franklin/2013/01/04/farmington-man-faces-...
In ME some seem to steal guns for fun and laughter . They are not stealing them to shoot rabitts and squirrels . Maybe they'll sell them for $$ for drugs or alcohol after grinding off the serial numbers . Who knows ? We do not want or need to know . God bless and protect your local and state police men and women • h t h , /s , Steve , former counter narcotics officer stationed in Guatemala ?

MARK GRAVE's picture

The war on drugs is a

The war on drugs is a failure. The laws themselves contribute to violence. And yet, we crowd our jails with people who violated minor possession changes, and we enable gangs to fight for turf.

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