Security funding discussed

Routt County to continue with northwest management region

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— The Routt County Board of Commissioners and area first responders decided to continue their support for the Northwest All Hazards Emergency Management Region on Tuesday, and agreed to work toward an intergovernmental agreement between the region's 10 member counties to better guide future priorities and procedures.

Since 2004, about $6 million in federal homeland security funding has come to the 10-county Northwest All Hazards Emergency Management Region, which includes Routt, Moffat, Grand, Jackson, Eagle, Summit, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Garfield and Mesa counties.

Roughly $1 million of the funds have gone to Routt County and agencies that operate within it, Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale said. Homeland security funds have helped the county's fire entities purchase self-contained breathing apparatuses and contributed to a full upgrade to 800-megahertz radio for emergency responders.

Vale declined to get more specific than that.

"We're not to make public what we've bought, where we've bought it, how prepared we are, what our strengths and weaknesses are - and I understand that from the terrorist standpoint," Vale said. "But it makes it very difficult for everyone to understand where the money went and how we're sharing it."

First responders and county government officials gathered Tuesday at the Routt County Courthouse Annex. Attendees mostly were in agreement that the Northwest All Hazards Region, a planning and grant-administrating body created by the state, had improved cross-county communication and made its constituents better prepared for a large-scale emergency. However, the Northwest All Hazards Region long has been criticized for its large geographic size, failure to fully identify and consolidate true regional priorities, and for its lack of any true authority from its constituent counties.

The state has contracted with the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments to act as the region's fiscal agent, receiving and administering grants on its behalf.

"Right now, you've got five counties that belong to Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and five that don't - the organization that manages the money, we're not even a member," Vale said.

Who will be the fiscal agent for the Northwest All Hazards Emergency Management Region is a significant issue that will have to be dealt with in the near future, and Routt County won't be volunteering to take it over any time soon, County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

"The state does not have, or is not willing to provide, the dollars necessary for the fiscal agent to do their job properly. That's why Northwest COG no longer wants to do it," Stahoviak said.

Several of the counties in the region, including Routt County, are working to draft an intergovernmental agreement to define responsibilities and grant the Northwest All Hazards Region legitimate authority from its members.

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