Federal grant to help school safety

Published 11:28 pm Friday, August 15, 2008

School safety will be one of the prime focuses when spending a more than $430,000 Homeland Security grant allocated to a 10-county area in Southeast Alabama, said Covington County Emergency Management Agency director Kristy Stamnes.

Stamnes said she, along with representatives from Houston, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Coffee Crenshaw, Butler, Barbour and Pike counties, will meet on Aug. 21 for a final meeting to determine how to allocate the funds for purchases.

“The thing about the way the Homeland Security money is spent is that items that are purchased have to benefit everyone in the entire region,” Stamnes said. “We have met with each of the superintendents in the county and they have submitted a wish list of items they would like to see inside their schools to provide better safety for students.”

Stamnes said the main item on each of the lists was a security camera system for schools.

“The way the grant is broken down is that right off the top $168,214 for law enforcement needs, after that 25 percent will be spent on preparedness planning and then, the remaining funds spent on school safety,” she said. “No one is able to know right now, just exactly what will be bought.

“That’s what our meeting next week is for,” she said.

Last year, funds from the grant allowed for the purchase of a sonar and radio system for the county’s rescue boat, as well as a new repeater in the south end of the county and communication headsets for the Incident Response Team.

“Those are things that, while are housed locally, can be ready for use within our region at a moment’s notice,” Stamnes said. “Which is exactly what we are looking for when we decided what to utilize the grant funds on.”

However, that method does have its downfalls, Stamnes said.

“It also means that, for the smaller agencies, that we can’t get the little things we need for the agencies like radios and such,” she said. “That’s just the way it’s set up. If the purchase doesn’t affect the region, then the request is not granted.

“Our guys (in each of the local police departments) need radios, vests and things like that,” she said. “The agencies don’t have the extra money to spend on things like that, so (EMA) can try and do what we can in helping them get those things.”

Stamnes said her department, along with the other law enforcement agencies, plans to seek additional funds through other grants and avenues to hopefully purchase the additional equipment.