Athens County Might Seek Grant For Command Vehicle

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Athens County officials are considering applying for federal funds to purchase a command vehicle for use at emergencies and at events that require increased security.

Fred Davis, director of the Athens County Emergency Management Agency, broached the subject Tuesday with the county commissioners.

Davis said the county's Homeland Security Committee is recommending the county pursue a grant for the vehicle. The committee consists representatives of the Athens, Nelsonville and Ohio University police departments, the county sheriff's office, Nelsonville and Athens fire departments, the county fire association, 911 and Athens County EMA.

The vehicle (looking somewhat like a box truck) would have communications ability, but would primarily serve as a command post for use by public safety personnel for coordinating at an event.

"It would essentially be an offshoot of the Emergency Operations Center, but we would put in on site," Davis said. "It boils down, basically, to event coordination on site."

It would not only be for use during emergency situations, but also for planned events such as the #Fest music festival held near Athens, he said.

The commissioners said that before the grant is sought they want to see details about how ongoing costs would be handled.

"One of the things that crops up is what is the annual operating cost, and who is going to maintain it," Commissioner Lenny Eliason said. "I want to be very careful about what costs we take on."

Eliason told Davis he does not have a problem with exploring purchase of the vehicle through the grant program.

Davis said there isn't enough time to put together a grant application this year, so the goal would be to submit one next August. The county would apply to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, but the money would come from the federal Department of Homeland Security.

Although Davis said such a vehicle could cost up to $500,000, depending on what equipment it has, he doubts the county would seek funding for a vehicle that elaborate. There would be no local match requirement for the grant.

Davis said Homeland Security would require that the vehicle serve a region, not just Athens County.

He said he will be contacting neighboring counties to see if they would be supportive of such a grant application. If so, then the next step would be to develop memorandums of understanding with the counties and local public safety agencies that would utilize the vehicle.

Davis said the memorandums would deal with use of the vehicle and with cost issues, such as maintenance.

It will take approval from the Athens County Commissioners for him to submit the grant application, Davis said. The grants are competitive.

"There is no guarantee that we would even get the grant," he said.