Denial stings county’s hopes – Federal grant funding will not help upgrade E-911 system
ESTHERVILLE –Emmet County was turned down, again, for a grant to help upgrade E-911 equipment and facilities at the law enforcement center in Estherville.
County emergency management director Terry Reekers was on hand to give supervisors the official word of the federal government’s second denial of grant funds for the project.
“I thought we had a very good grant,” Reekers said. “We’re very disappointed. This kind of sets us back at square one.”
This marks the second time the county applied for an Assistance to Firefighters grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the last two years.
The county E-911 board was hoping to apply grant funds to purchase a new radio communications system, complex in design. Also on the list was a new console for the control room which holds radio equipment, computers, paging system, screens, among other communications equipment. The last item on the list was new furniture for the control room which is effectively modern and user-friendly.
This round the county even received help in writing the grant and representatives went to Washington to speak with federal legislators in regard to the fund request with the Iowa Lakes Corridor. Reekers said the legislators gave a high priority to this project after meeting with those representatives, himself included.
“My gut feeling is that they weren’t happy with the amount we applied for,” Reekers said.
The grant asked for about $400,000, but for a county of less than 12,000 residents that figure might not have been satisfactory for FEMA.
“But we would have taken a portion of that,” Reekers said.
He added the local E-911 system funds are adequate, but the procedure of updating equipment with just those monies will be slower.
“We’ll have to prioritize,” Reekers told board members.
However, progress on upgrading radios in the county and throughout the state–currently ongoing–will continue.
The county generates annually around $50,000 for the E-911 system. Reekers said, adding that more people are not using landline phones any longer and moving to cell phones.
The reimbursement to the 911 system is different for cell phones. Instead of money going directly to a system, the nearly 70 cents per month charge on a cell phone line for E-911 goes to the state and those funds are allocated from there across the state.
“We’ll just have to be more fiscally responsible,” Reekers said about functioning normally and trying to upgrade equipment without additional funding.
Board chair Alan Madden asked Reekers if E-911 planned to submit another grant request.
“I think we should,” he replied, adding that the next attempt could be “tweaked” even more than the last application.
Staff writer Mary Ann Menendez contributed to this article.
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