In South Florida, Miami-Area Counties Feud over Security Funds

The federal government announced Friday that Miami will get another $16 million in Homeland Security money, but left it up to local officials to resolve a running dispute over how the money should be shared with neighboring cities and counties.

Outraged that Miami offered Broward just 10 percent of its allotment last year, officials in that county refused to take any of the money and lobbied federal officials for their own grant.

But Washington denied Broward's pleas to be considered separately, a decision that sparked an angry response from U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, R-Fort Lauderdale, who had joined Broward's lobbying effort.

"Both Palm Beach and Broward counties have an international airport, seaports and critical petroleum reserves," Shaw said in a prepared statement. "Let's not forget, this area was home to al Qaeda operatives prior to 9/11."

The government announced Friday that another $854.6 million will be doled out to the nation's cities at the greatest risk of terrorist attack -- with $15.8 million going to Miami.

According to federal policy, the entire allotment is given to the city considered at risk and the county it is in. It is then up to those entities to divide the money as it sees fit with neighboring local governments.

Last year, Joe Fernandez, the city of Miami's assistant fire chief, and Carlos Castillo, Miami-Dade emergency manager, determined that Broward should receive 10 percent of the funding.

Broward was so angry that it sent a contingent to Washington to protest that this was unfair and that Broward should have its own place on the grant list.

When Washington declined to intervene, Broward refused to accept even the 10 percent. It was the second time that Broward had declined the money, costing the county about $3.5 million over two years.

"We don't believe that Miami-Dade has 90 percent of the threat in South Florida," said Broward Emergency Manager Tony Carper. "We went up and tried to get a separate designation. It's still ongoing."

Asked why Broward did not accept the money while lobbying for its own designation, Carper said the county did not want to "undermine" its argument.

He said a decision had not been made on what to do about the latest grant.

Broward officials argue that the county has a large propane complex near Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport that if set on fire could cause large losses.

"We feel it's very misguided," said Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs. "The threat to Broward is certainly worthy of a better split of federal dollars. How we could be overlooked to the degree we have, I find completely indefensible."

Fernandez, the Miami assistant fire chief, said the government's policy is for contiguous cities outside the at-risk city "to be able to help us. And if it enhances them in the process, great."

Fernandez said this year's grant, like last year's, would go toward planning, training and equipment, and response to chemical and biological outbreaks and bomb detection. More money could go toward improving command and control centers and purchasing high-tech equipment to be used at ports that screen only a small percentage of incoming cargo.