Archive for Thursday, May 6, 2010

Commission discusses FEMA funding rejection

May 6, 2010

Leavenworth—The Federal Emergency Management Agency amended an earlier decision Tuesday and made Leavenworth County eligible for reimbursement funds for the responses to and damages from winter storms.

The FEMA notice came a day after Leavenworth County Emergency Management Director Chuck Magaha reported to the county commission that Leavenworth was left off a list of Kansas counties eligible for the funds.

During his quarterly report Monday to the commission, Magaha also discussed with commissioners FEMA’s rejection of a $775,000 grant application to pay for new digital radios for fire departments.

Leavenworth County was among those Gov. Mark Parkinson listed in a declaration of emergency after winter storms hit the state in December and January. That potentially made the county and local jurisdictions eligible for government reimbursement of 75 percent and state reimbursement of 10 percent of money spent on storm responses and repairs.

Magaha followed up the governor’s declaration with paperwork to FEMA detailing how county and local governments spent $800,000 on the storms. FEMA officials started trimming away.

After the initial rejection, Magaha resubmitted the application with a scaled-down request for $500,000. That, too, was denied and appealed.

On Tuesday, the county received an e-mail from FEMA with the news Leavenworth County was on an amended list.

Magaha said Wednesday he would have an applicants briefing next week, at which he would give needed paperwork to representative cities, townships and school districts.

“When those are returned, we’ll dig down in the weeds and try to get every dollar we can now,” he said.

Commissioners decided Monday to ask the county’s congressional delegation to help it learn why a local $775,000 FEMA grant application was denied.

The Federal Communications Commission sold the frequencies once used for analog emergency radio communications to wireless companies with the anticipation of a switch to narrow-band digital radio communications. The county did just that with its $14.9 million radio communications system but is experiencing problems with fire departments still operating with analog radios.

“We knew we were going to have difficulties in communication, and we are,” Commissioner J.C. Tellefson said.

The problem for fire departments is cost. Analog radios cost from $600 to $800, while digital replacements range from $1,700 to $4,500, Magaha said.

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