Maine's Homeland Security Funding to Be Cut in Half

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- The state anticipates losing half its federal homeland security funding under the 2005 budget signed by President Bush last month.

Art Cleaves, director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, said he expects to get $11 million in 2005, down from a $22 million allocation in 2004.

``The lesser amount of money is going to make it difficult,'' Cleaves told the Bangor Daily News. ``All of (Maine's) homeland security spending is built around our strategic plan, and we are following that true to form.''

Cleaves said Maine's strategic homeland security plan focuses on three areas.

One is to identify and secure critical state infrastructure. Another is to prepare first responders for terrorist attacks or large-scale disasters.

The third area seeks to secure communications systems that will allow state, county and municipal responders to coordinate and communicate. Different departments in New York had incompantible communication systems on Sept. 11, 2001.

Cleaves said Maine needs five years of annual funding at the 2004 level of $22 million to fully achieve the goals of the strategic plan.

By law, the Maine Emergency Management Agency must distribute 80 percent of the state's homeland security funding to local first responders.

Grants have been made to local departments for two years, with much of the money used to upgrade or replace communication systems and train first responders.

Some money has been spent buying vehicles for different parts of the state.

The emergency management director for Hancock and Washington counties will buy a $50,000 Ford Expedition equipped with new communications systems. SUVs also will be purchased for Franklin and Aroostook counties, Cleaves said.

The MEMA office also is buying three command vans, at a cost of about $325,000 each, to be used in strategic areas of Maine. The vans, equipped with radios and other communication equipment, are used as command centers in the field.

One van has been purchased and is assigned to Bangor. The others will be located in Greene near Lewiston, and in the York County town of Alfred. Bruce Fitzgerald, MEMA grant coordinator, said the homeland security money must be used for specific purposes, primarily equipment and training.

An unresolved issue in Congress is how to distribute homeland security money to the highest risk areas -- the nation's large urban areas -- while still helping smaller areas prepare for a terrorist attack or other disasters.

Although Maine expects a large drop in federal security funding, the Department of Homeland Security budget will increase by 10 percent under the budget bill Bush signed Oct. 18, according to the Homeland Security Web site.

Lt. Tim Reid of the Bangor Police Department said the city has used homeland security grants to buy a robot to help the city's bomb team.

A bomb trailer also has been upgraded to allow responses to chemical bombs. Bangor received total funding of $425,000. Penobscot County received $868,000.

By comparison, Portland received $950,000, Lewiston got $510,000 and Aroostook County received $354,000.

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