Upshur Commission questions grant

BUCKHANNON – Upshur County Commissioners on Thursday approved an Office of Emergency Management grant application for federal funds that would be used to purchase equipment intended to strengthen the county’s disaster preparedness capabilities.

But discussion of the grant application led Commissioner Donnie Tenney to question whether federal grant money intended to help local OEMs cope with emergencies is being spent wisely.

Should the county receive it, the $21,000 Upshur County Disaster Response Trailers Sustainment 2014 grant would be used to buy replacement equipment and supplies for four trailers maintained by the OEM – the mass care shelter, pet shelter, comfort shelter and special needs shelter.

According to the grant application, these materials would improve mobility, enhance the county’s response and “fill missing gaps” in the OEM’s capabilities the agency learned of through actual deployment and Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation programs.

Among the materials to be purchased are loading ramps, medical kits, portable signs, a portable forklift, dollies, fuel containers, batteries and storage containers.

Also listed are rigging and cargo netting, which is needed to secure supply loads in transit; heat stress monitors for evaluating the need for cooling shelters and the physical condition of disaster workers; fans for the cooling and ventilation of workers, animals and shelters; and utility field carts for moving heavy supplies and animal crates.

“They are getting loading ramps for shelters that are not ADA-accessible (Americans with Disabilities Act), so it kind of covers a few different things,” County Administrator Megan Pomeroy explained. “I think what relates to animals is a field cart to move heavy supplies and animal crates, which would include cages for animals, food, that kind of thing.”

Tenney made a motion to approve the grant application, but afterward expressed concerns about spending money to outfit pet trailers.

“I voted for it, but personally, I think it’s a waste of money to spend this money on this because no one’s ever going to bring their dogs (to a pet shelter trailer) if there’s a problem,” he said, “but that’s the problem with the federal government. They direct the grant money where they want it to go to, and as I’ve said all along I think we need to spend more time and more money preparing for emergencies because the greatest potential emergency in any place is what happened in Charleston.

“I’ve got a dog, and I guarantee you, if something happens, that dog is not going to go to a trailer,” Tenney continued. “Ninety-nine percent of people are not going to let their little dog go in some shelter, in some cage away from them. I just have a problem with the government telling us, ‘you can only get grant money if you do with it what we want you to do.'”

Tenney said he is an animal lover and is not “blaming” the Upshur County OEM.

“These grants come from the federal and state government, and they direct them where they want them to go,” he said.

“We need to be concentrating on real emergencies.”

OEM Public Information Officer Jim Farry said Thursday that the agency is not requesting any pet supplies, but is, however, requesting “things like load securement to use inside all the trailers, including the pet trailer.”

“There is no option not to take care of animals under the Stafford Act (Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance),” Farry said. “We can’t deny service animals, and there are different kind of evacuations, but we must always accommodate service animals. We have absolutely zero options in the case of a major disaster. You have to allow for the animals because people are not going to evacuate without their pets.”

“I understand his (Tenney’s) frustration,” Farry added, “but we don’t get to pick how we use these grants. It comes from the state. It’s not local money.”

Farry said he wanted to emphasize that Tenney “strongly supports animals.”

In other business, the commission also:

  • Approved the appointment of Patricia L. Adams as Republican ballot commissioner and Donna S. Matthews as Democratic ballot commissioner; each commissioner will serve a two-year term beginning May 14, 2013. Adams will replace Phyllis Jean Thacker, who will serve from Feb. 1 through May 13, and Judith Martin, who will also serve from Feb. 1 through May 13.
  • Approved the hiring of the following early voting clerks for the Feb. 8 special levy election at a rate of $7.25 per hour beginning Jan. 27 through Feb. 5: Beatrice Adams, Irene Andrew, Nelda Light, Thanna Wentz, Judith Miles, Beulah Riffle, Philip Murphy, Betty Heavner, Janet Kay Wilson and Phyllis Thacker.