2015-11-20 / Community

Grant will go toward fighting terror

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND — The Maine Emergency Management Agency has awarded $168,719 to South Portland to fight terrorism.

Most of the money ($122,375) comes in the from the Homeland Security Grant Program, and will be used to fund training and buy equipment needed to handle situations involving hazardous materials. The rest ($46,344) will go to the police department from the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program.

Since 2007, South Portland has won more than $2 million in MEMA grants, funneled from the federal Department of Homeland Security.

“The equipment and training that we have acquired over the past decade has been instrumental in providing for our community’s safety,” Fire Chief Kevin Guimond wrote in an Oct. 28 memo to City Manager Jim Gailey. “Our emergency management program now is focused on maintaining the capacity we currently have in place, and assessing needs that will help our emergency responders perform their duties safely. Communications and safety equipment upgrades have been our largest investments in the past few years. The police and fire department annually uses these funds to send several of our employees out of state for advanced training. This experience helps build confidence as well as morale within our departments.”

Even so, not everyone at the Nov. 16 city council meeting, at which the grant was official accepted by the city council, was thrilled with the award.

“I don’t expect anybody to turn down this grant, especially in light of the events of the last few days,” Mussey Street resident Greg Lewis said, referring to the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, France. “But when is this going to end? It seems to be a matter of course now that we just accept annual donations for the Department of Homeland Security, which has a rather ominous sounding name. I look forward to a day when it’s not necessary to accept these funds.”

“When we see federal funds available, we rarely turn them down,” Councilor Claude Morgan added.

Still, pointing to recently adopted contracts that call on police officers and firefighters to pay a greater share of their health insurance premiums, Mussey said he’d rather see grants to pay those bills, rather than terror-fighting equipment.

“We live in a community that has a lot of potential sites for terrorism,” said Mayor-elect Tom Blake, a retired firefighter.

In fact, Blake added, he’s only disappointed the grant funding, which topped out at $328,116 in 2010, has been on the decline in recent years.

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