In the Spotlight

News & Features
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Rural areas passing on homeland security money
Larger view
Darrel Grande has spent the last week finalizing Clay county's grant applications for homeland security money. (MPR photo/Bob Reha)
Since September 11th, 2001, Americans are more security conscious. Federal and state authorities are offering more than 20 million dollars to fight against potential terror attacks. But some communities are having difficulty tapping into the funds.

Moorhead, Minn. — Darrel Grande sits at his deck and punches figures into an adding machine. Grande is the emergency management director for Clay County. He's reviewing the paper work for the county's application forms for aid to respond to terrorist attacks.

"Bombs, chemical, biological anything that would cause a major disaster," says Grande.

The county is asking for $65,000. The money will be used for training and equipment. Grande says the county is applying for state and federal money. He says officials have to look at their communities from a new perspective.

"Potential threats site and any history of any threats. What types of (terrorist) organizations in our area may be and then just identifying places within the county that may be hit," says Grande.

Some county officials complain the process is too time consuming. Jim Mulder is executive director of the Association of Minnesota Counties.

"I have heard that there are a few counties and a few cities out there that have said that the bureaucratic paperwork and the frustration that comes with it is more than what it is worth," says Mulder.

Mulder says less than half of the state's 87 counties have applied for funds. He says few small rural counties are applying.

"For most small communities you don't have a specialist in emergency preparedness. It's someone who is either in your police department or in your emergency response office," says Mulder. "They're people who have other jobs and other functions and really this is a new experience having to do deal with some of this bureaucracy."

There's another problem. State grants require applicants to match a quarter of the money. Rich Stanek, Minnesota's director of homeland security says that's beyond many small counties.

"A lot of them was that they simply couldn't make a 25 percent cash or hard match. Many of them quite honestly still aren't quite sure what their counties need or not need," says Stanek. "So the money is available and can be distributed but we're having a hard time getting the counties to apply for the money to begin with."

Stanek says most counties are looking for training and equipment funding. He says communities want their first responders trained in chemical and hazardous waste cleanup.

Jim Mulder of the Association of Minnesota Counties says such training makes sense. He says it also makes sense to ensure that the money goes to areas that can reach out to smaller communities in a crisis.

"There are some counties and some of our smaller counties that are looking towards the regional center type counties," says Stanek. "The Clay counties or the Becker counties and visiting with them in the hopes that they will be providing some of that service if an emergency strikes in some of our smallest counties through mutual aid and just through the fact that counties work together very very well that they would be able to come and help."

Mulder says plans are being developed to coordinate response efforts between counties. Applications for the Homeland Security grants were due April 1. State and federal officials will award the money by the middle of the month.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects