LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department
Updated: Monday, May 10th, 2010

No money in budget for metro radio fix


The Kentucky House has loaded the state budget with hundreds of Homeland Security projects in 61 counties - but not Louisville's $70 million planned emergency radio system.

The House plan would require the state's Department of Homeland Security to spend nearly half its expected federal grant money on the legislators' earmarks, which are heavily weighted toward the home counties of some of the House's top Democrats.

The plan has drawn the ire of Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson, who argues that such funding should be allocated after "a threat analysis." Louisville has the highest concentration of federally designated terrorism targets in the state.

But one legislator defended the project, saying Kentucky's rural counties could be terrorist targets, too.

"Big cities aren't the only ones at risk," said Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, whose counties would receive 58 earmarks.

For the first time, the federal government is having states compete for Homeland Security money. That means Kentucky might get less if its spending doesn't match state and federal security priorities, said Alecia Webb-Edgington, state director.

The priorities focus heavily on updating communications systems, such as Louisville's radio system. Police officers now use two different systems and must rely on a patch that allows officers in the urban areas to talk with officers in suburban areas.

Webb-Edgington said her agency is concerned about any plan in which communities don't have to apply for funds and justify their expenditures. In the past, the department made all spending decisions.

Uncertainty about budget

Gov. Ernie Fletcher didn't earmark any allocations for security in his budget -- the state won't know until June 1 how much federal money it will get.

But the House version of the two-year budget anticipates $41 million each year, and it earmarks nearly $18 million for its projects in each of those years.

That is slightly more than what the state has received in recent years -- an average of $39 million, Webb-Edgington said.

House Speaker Jody Richards, whose home county gets 24 projects in the House budget, said he doesn't believe the state will lose funding because everything on the list meets the federal requirements for Homeland Security spending.

And Rep. John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty, whose counties get 43 projects, said he believes the state should consider altering its priorities to match the list created in the House.

"I think the state's goals should be what's on that list," he said, adding that local officials and legislators would argue the projects are crucial to their areas' security.

Defense of allotments

Stacy also said it might appear that districts represented by House leaders -- including him, Richards, Adkins, caucus leader Bob Damron and budget chairman Harry Moberly -- are targeted for a large number of projects. But the individual amounts are largely inexpensive and don't total more than those in some other districts, he said.

The list contains at least 394 projects in 274 counties, cities, schools and fire districts.

Some projects list specific spending for such items as communication devices, firefighter gear and heart defibrillators in schools. But many give no specifics.

Jason Keller, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the state agency has never received applications for many of the projects.

The House plan does list three earmarks for Louisville: for terrorism prevention equipment, search and rescue equipment, and unspecified detection equipment.

But Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, called the plan an "outrage" because it overlooks the greatest need in the state's largest city: the communication system.

Last year, after a disagreement with city officials, the state department didn't provide any money for the system.

City is pushing ahead

The city says the system is a priority and is pushing ahead with plans to fully implement it by next year. To pay for the system, the city is setting aside money from its budget, direct federal earmarks and other sources.

Abramson has said the city will bond what it can't pay for immediately, although city officials are hoping the state will help ease its debt.

Both he and Riggs said they hope the Senate removes the projects from the budget plan -- the Senate budget committee is expected to release its version of the budget tomorrow or Wednesday.

Senate Floor Leader Dan Kelly, R-Springfield, said he's concerned the House plan might jeopardize federal funds, and Senate Budget Chairman Charlie Borders, R-Russell, expressed the same sentiment.

"The key (question) is, 'Does it fit into the formula that we have for Homeland Security funding?' " Borders said. "We just don't want to do anything to jeopardize any federal funding."