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Fox still seeking answers on Homeland Security funding
Jan 14, 2005 12:00 am
After meeting with county and state emergency management officials Monday, Lebanon Mayor Don Fox said he was "much less concerned" over the expenditure of federal homeland security funds in the midstate though he will still pursue an inventory of spending.
Last week, Fox and his peers on the fifth district homeland security executive committee – one of 11 such bodies across the state charged with doling out the federal grant monies – called for more accountability in the expenditure of homeland security funds.
Along with his fellow committee members, Fox said the panel is often left to approve lump sums for each of the four counties under short deadlines. He indicated he would request emergency management officials in Wilson, Williamson, Davidson and Sumner counties provide "more detailed" information regarding how funds had been used since first approved in 2003 and how future homeland security monies would be spent at the committee's Jan. 26 meeting.
On Monday, however, Fox said officials were willing to provide reports concerning the use of homeland security funds.
"(They are) complying with the executive committee's request to furnish … complete explanations of the process. We had a very productive meeting," Fox said. "I'm much less concerned, and when the full executive committee gets completely on board, we'll receive the requested information – detailed listings of expenditures and pending purchases. We'll feel like we're an executive committee rather than a rubber stamp board."
The mayor indicated Marty Heckman, strategic homeland security coordinator for the fifth district, expressed a strong willingness to work closely with the executive committee in the grant dispersal process.
"Our coordinator, Heckman, came in mid-stream. He wasn't here in the first meeting – he couldn't be because he hadn't been authorized to be hired," Fox said. "But, now that he has come in, he has let his presence be known to all of the committees … so we'll be a much better informed executive board."
A proposal for spending some $75,000 in homeland security grant money awarded to Lebanon also emerged from Monday morning's meeting, although local officials remain uncertain as to whether the project would fall under the umbrella of homeland security.
Lebanon is seeking to use the funds to help establish a mutual aid agreement with the county's water utility districts and Davidson County.
According to Wilson Emergency Management Agency Director Jerry McFarland, Lebanon's water treatment plant provides approximately two-thirds of the county's water supply. The mutual aid agreement would provide alternative water sources in the event of an emergency at the treatment plant, he said.
"Lebanon's main lines cross in close proximity to the West Wilson Utility District, which I think is already tied to (Davidson County's) utility district," McFarland said. "It's just a matter of opening some valves, and water would flow from Metro into West Wilson … the idea is to be able to tie West Wilson to the Lebanon water lines and be able to support each other."
Fox explained such an agreement would allow the districts to share potable water in the event of a mechanical failure or terrorist attack.
Still, it remains to be seen whether such a plan would be acceptable under federal guidelines. There are more than a dozen categories for the usage of homeland security funds, and McFarland said the project might be accepted under a "planning" category.
If such were the case, the City of Lebanon would be able to use the federal dollars for planning- and engineering-related costs associated with linking area water lines.
Fox and McFarland said they expect to receive a response from federal officials as to whether such an agreement constitutes acceptable use of the funds later this week.
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.