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Grants Boost Public Safety Funds

July 25, 2002

<bt>With $2.3 million in federal grant funds, the Department of Fire and Rescue Services can avoid postponing or searching for another source of funding to prepare for the next large-scale emergency.

The same is true for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, which will receive $1.43 million from the federal government's State and Local Emergency Preparedness Program. The grant funds are administered by the U.S. Justice Department.

"We might have had problems with purchasing because of budget constraints, but now we can make the purchases," said Kraig Troxell, public information officer for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

The U.S. Congress granted Virginia $62.5 million in grant funds, including $13.9 million for the Virginia State Police and $48.6 million to help localities in the state prepare for emergencies and major events that could affect public safety, such as natural disasters and terrorism. Loudoun’s share of the funds is $4.3 million.

"A lot of what is in here is useful regardless. We know the whole thing was initiated in response to September 11," said Arie Sky, senior budget analyst for the Department of Management Services.

The funds come from a spending bill approved in December 2001 to help nine state localities expand emergency services, with the amount they receive based on their proximity to the Pentagon and to Washington, D.C. Loudoun and Fairfax counties and the cities of Alexandria, Falls Church and Manassas are five Northern Virginia localities receiving the funds.

IN DECEMBER 2001, Loudoun County officials and staff began working with town representatives to develop an implementation plan for spending the grant money, listing the equipment and training public safety agencies could use to enhance emergency preparedness. The county’s Federal Emergency Project List includes funding for protective bio-chemical suits and masks, hazardous materials detectors, a hazardous duty mobile robot, a mass casualty trailer and supplies, vehicles, software and upgraded telecommunication lines to 20 fire and rescue stations.

The Department of Fire and Rescue Services plans to use $300,000 of its funds to purchase emergency management equipment and the remaining $2 million for fire and rescue equipment. The purchase list for the sheriff’s office includes personal protective gear, mobile data terminals, special operations equipment and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

"It helps provide necessary supplies and resources to enable us to provide better service throughout the county," said Mary Maguire, public information officer for the Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS held a public hearing Monday on a proposed amendment to the Fiscal Year 2003 budget to appropriate the grant funds into the budget. Board policy requires a public hearing for appropriations greater than $500,000, since the appropriation increases the amount of expenditures.

The board agreed 9-0 to suspend the rules and adopt the budget adjustment.

"This is all about public safety. It’s really all about enhancing our ability to handle these types of incidents," Sky said.

The government granted a total of $251.1 million for state and local governments in Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Utah without requiring a local match.