Bay Area Seeks Millions for Homeland Security

Feb. 24--TREASURE ISLAND -- Bay Area officials are seeking $333.2 million of federal homeland security money being made available nationwide through a competitive grant process.

The figure, released only hours before today's deadline for local requests, would include about $107 million for emergency communications upgrades to improve voice and data links between Alameda, Contra Costa and eight other Bay Area counties.

Approximately $50 million more is being requested for security upgrades at landmarks and key facilities. Among the areas specified are the Golden Gate Bridge, the Port of Oakland and BART's transbay tube between Oakland and San Francisco, said Annemarie Conroy, San Francisco's emergency services director.

The figures were released at a news conference this morning attended by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, standing in for Mayor Jerry Brown.

All three officials said the application accurately reflects the region's security needs, though they admitted it is unlikely all the requests will be fulfilled -- given that the total figure represents 44 percent of the $765 million being made available nationwide by the federal Department of Homeland Security.

"This is not a pie in the sky proposal," De La Fuente said. "This is what we need to protect our citizens."

A precise breakdown of how the $333.2 million would be spent was not available this morning. Conroy said the final request came after 40 meetings over the past 30 days involving officials from 10 Bay Area counties. The final meeting occurred Thursday night.

Officials in Newsom's office are expected to release a breakdown of the funding requests this afternoon. Conroy said requests to create "interoperable" communications around the bay amount to the largest chunk of the Bay Area's requests.

That could be good news for Alameda and Contra Costa counties, which have been working for several years on plans to upgrade communications. They are trying to overcome glitches that often make it impossible for firefighters and police officers to speak directly with colleagues in other communities.

This year's grant process marks the first time that Alameda County and Contra Costa aren't submitting requests for Homeland Security funds on their own.

Under a new formula announced in January, the East Bay must team up with other parts of the Bay Area in applying for federal grants to fight terrorism and plan for disasters. "This effort requires collaboration, as opposed to a competitive atmosphere where we're trying to take from each other," Newsom said.

The Bay Area is among 35 regions nationwide eligible for grants from funds earmarked for 2006. The Bay Area has until the end of today to submit its request to the state Office of Homeland Security.

The state has one week to refine the request before it is submitted to the federal government for approval. Final decisions on which projects will be funded are expected in June.

<<Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) (KRT) -- 02/27/06>>