By Ed Brock
It's going to take about a year for Georgia's Homeland Security Task Force and emergency personnel to decide how to divide the more than $37.5 million the state just received in federal Homeland Security grant money.
Last week Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle and Morrow Police Chief Kenny Smith joined Georgia Director of Homeland Security Bill Hitchens in Savannah to receive the $37,579,000 grant from Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security at the Department of Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson.
About 80 percent of that money will go to local first responders such as police, sheriff and fire departments, Tuggle said.
"It will be broken into grants for equipment, training and planning," said Tuggle, who represents the Georgia Sheriffs Association.
Now it's up to the state's eight All Hazards Councils to draw up a wish list for individual departments. That list then has to go to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency for approval.
"But the indications are they will probably stick pretty much to the list the councils recommend," Tuggle said.
In a previous round of grants received on March 7 the Forest Park, Riverdale and Morrow fire departments received about $120,000 out of $14,188,000, Tuggle said. The money went primarily to buy equipment for handling hazardous material.
"Hazmat in the first round of money was definitely on everybody's list," Tuggle said.
That money came fast and there wasn't much time to get information on what kind of equipment was needed. It will be about a year before local departments begin spending the recent grant.
"We anticipate with this $37 million we'll have time to plan," Tuggle said.
But the wish lists are already being formed.
"We hope to see things like mobile command posts, technical equipment and communication equipment," Smith said.
Smith went to last week's meeting in his capacity as president of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.
"We were just mainly excited that the state Homeland Security people realized that the bulk of the money needed to go to local agencies, first responders," Smith said.
A portion of the new grant will also be available to offset the costs of enhanced security measures deployed during the heightened threat period that was in effect during the war in Iraq, according to Hitchens' department. Tuggle said Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport would receive money separately through the Transportation Security Administration.
The federal Department of Homeland Security has distributed more than $4.4 billion nationwide since March 1.