County seeks reimbursement from Federal Emergency Management Agency

WOODBRIDGE — Prince William County is applying to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for $155,000 in reimbursement for expenses it incurred while sending fire-and-rescue and police personnel to the Pentagon.

“A large portion of the FEMA request was for regular salaries and overtime of people who had to go to the Pentagon,” said Dana Fenton, assistant to the county executive. “We had people there that were actively involved in rescue and recovery efforts.”

Four county departments will receive the funding, including the office of executive management and the sheriff’s department.

The city of Manassas also applied for $2,100 in federal reimbursements for police overtime and mileage after sending personnel to help with administrative tasks and security at the Pentagon, said Manassas City Manager Lawrence Hughes.

Prince William is also applying for $3.6 million in funds from the 2001 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act.

The emergency legislation, sponsored by Sen. George Allen, R-Va., was put into effect Sept. 14. The goal is to help cities bolster their preparedness in response to future terrorist attacks. It makes $40 billion available to qualified agencies, Fenton said. The money would enable the county to become a first responder, so that it can more independently protect itself from attacks.

“We may not have the proper equipment under all scenarios to get into the hazardous zones, so we need to upgrade some of our equipment,” said Kevin McGee, division chief in the county department of fire and rescue.

Other jurisdictions may not be able to respond under multiple attacks, he said.

Prince William does not have a HAZMAT unit, a special vehicle with equipment that allows workers to enter hazardous areas. The county does staff two full-time HAZMAT officers, however.

With the creation of the Emergency Supplemental Appropri-ations Act, Prince William is asking for $1.4 million for personal protective equipment, $500,000 for police command vehicle replacements, $1.1 million for communications equipment and $550,000 for a hazardous materials unit.

Meanwhile, police departments nationwide are complaining about the drain on their resources that the anthrax scare is creating. The FBI on Tuesday issued its latest terrorist alert following credible evidence.

“Since Sept. 11 a great deal of our resources have been consumed with dealing with suspicious circumstances, letters and packages,” said Police Chief Charlie T. Deane. “We had 17 incidents last night.”

Overall, the county has responded to about 200 calls for suspicious situations, since the first anthrax incident several weeks ago, Deane said.

The incidents have ranged from an envelope left on someone’s doorstep with no return address that turned out to be a cell phone that had been ordered, to white powder on a back office counter that was not initially believed to be cleaning powder. At the same time, routine non-emergency calls have not diminished, Deane said.

Residents are also taking matters into their own hands, organizing meetings to improve their preparedness. The Heritage Hunt subdivision in Gainesville has scheduled a meeting for Nov. 14 in which county officials have been asked to make a presentation.

“Their residents want to know about the realistic threat to their communities, how to act individually and collectively, and what the county’s plans are to deal with terrorism,” county Public Relations Director Liz Bahrns. The meeting is open only to Heritage Hunt residents.

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