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Published: Saturday, 6/10/2006

City share of urban security aid at risk

BY ERIC LUND
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Toledo must show a greater need for federal anti-terrorism funding or risk receiving no urban security money in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Along with the rest of Ohio and other major cities across the nation, the Toledo area had funding cut this year, receiving $3.85 million for 2006, down from $5.3 million in 2005.

Although Toledo has received federal anti-terrorism dollars every year since 2002, last year was the first time the city got an urban security grant besides the smaller annual homeland security planning grants, said Bill Halsey, director of the Lucas County Emergency Management Agency.

Mr. Halsey said any funding for Toledo in 2007 would be in the form of planning grants, which since 2003 have averaged about $1.5 million.

In 2007, "we probably will not get the big urban area money, the millions of dollars," he said.

Toledo Councilman Ellen Grachek said while people may think Toledo is not a terrorist target, the city is near Toronto - where 17 terror suspects were arrested this week - and home to three terror suspects arrested earlier this year. "We need to, as a city, make a concerted and clear claim for those federal funds," Ms. Grachek said.

In February, three Toledo-area residents were arrested after being accused of plotting to build bombs and assist insurgent attacks in Iraq.

"We've talked with our federal and state partners on [the February terror arrests]; it really had no effect," Mr. Halsey said. "The deeds they were planning on doing were not here," they were in the Middle East.

In remarks Wednesday night on the floor of the House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) criticized anti-terror funding cuts to Ohio's four largest cities - from $26.1 million in 2005 to $17.6 million in 2006 - and said Toledo is a "premier international transportation center" and a major Great Lakes port.

"We have to make sure that our air, water, rail, port, and surface transportation infrastructure is safe and secure, and we need the federal government's help to do exactly that," Miss Kaptur said.

Mr. Halsey said the bulk of the 2005 and 2006 funding would be used to create a unified communication system for police, firefighters, and other emergency responders. He said once the system is in place, it will not require much money to maintain.

Toledo Battalion Fire Chief Greg Locher said Toledo could get an urban security grant in 2007 to help finish the communications project. But unless the formula used to distribute funds this year changes, Toledo will not be eligible for funds after 2007.

Besides the communication system, homeland security grants also have been used to purchase protective equipment for police, firefighters, and paramedics; equipment that could be used to monitor and minimize a biological or chemical attack, and training, including establishing special teams to respond to things like chemical attacks or collapsing buildings.



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