Public safety — Agencies are awaiting state approval for Homeland Security grants, money would simplify radio system

Currently, the Newberg-Dundee Police Department and the Newberg Fire Department have to carry two radios in their cars to hear and respond to calls. With a recent grant application, they hope to resolve that issue.

The county uses an 800 MHz system in the Newberg-Dundee area and 450 MHz in others. The new radios, if approved, would allow officers to switch back and forth between the two bands with ease.

“It’s an importability issue,” said Mary Newell, NDPD support services manager. “So if they have to work maybe a fire at the other end of the county or a pursuit coming through, it would allow us to get on the 450 (MHz) system.”

But the radios are expensive; $205,750 is needed for the NDPD and $184,175 for the NFD. The county also asked for $135,820 to upgrade its communications system.

Although the Yamhill County Board of Com­mis­sioners ap­proved the applications for U.S. Department of Homeland Se­cur­ity grants, the decision lies with the state.

“You can only have one application per county,” Newell said. “Within that application you can have seven projects of varying amounts, but only one can go to the state.”

This year, Oregon received more than $3.69 million to divvy between counties. As of last year, applications are 100 percent competitive, said Sidra Metzger-Hines, Office of Emer­gency Management grant coordinator.

“When funding was higher, the state of Oregon originally back in the day split (funds) basically 60/40,” Metzger-Hines said. “Sixty percent was split evenly around the county and 40 percent was based on the population of each county.”

But as funding decreased, smaller counties weren’t receiving enough to make the application process worth the time, she said. “To continue the money going all over the state, we went last year to 100 percent competitive,” she said. “It absolutely worked.”

Grant applications from the county were due Aug. 1. Metzger-Hines said they are then reviewed by a committee of about 20 individuals from law enforcement, fire, emergency management, communications and state agencies. Applications are ranked by the committee and approved by the OEM Director Dave Stuckey.

She said agencies should know the first week in September whether their applications were approved. Grant money will be distributed in October.

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