NH Council Rejects Nuclear Plant Grants for Emergency Center

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - The Executive Council is raising questions about a proposed emergency operations center in Concord, and has declined money from two nuclear plants that would have helped build it.

The Vermont Yankee and Seabrook plants had offered to pay $525,000 toward an $11 million hub state police dispatch and other safety service would use in a disaster.

But councilors declined the money Wednesday, saying they worried it might cause electric rates to increase. They also said they needed more information about state plans to use federal money to protect against disasters.

None of the five councilors doubted the need for increased vigilance, but stressed the need to make sure the money is spent effectively.

``Money doesn't fix it,'' said Councilor Raymond Wieczorek. ``You need to spend that money effectively.''

The federal government already has sent the state $9.3 million for the center, but Councilor Peter Spaulding said he's not sure putting up a new building is the best way to go.

In recent years the state has received $47 million in federal homeland security money to help fire departments, county sheriffs and local police officers prepare for catastrophes.

State emergency management director Bruce Cheney said he wasn't sure what the council's vote meant for the building project, which has been in the works for several years.

The state was one of five selected to receive grants for emergency management centers. The money must either be used for the building or be returned.

After a lengthy discussion, the councilors declined the power plant money but agreed to spend a few million in federal homeland security funds for grants to state agencies.

Before the vote, the council urged Gov. John Lynch to craft a plan for spending future federal grants. Lynch said two of his staff members are examining New Hampshire's homeland security system.

``It will be a very thorough process, a very open process,'' Lynch said. ``It will be a very good process going forward.''