(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories generated about Monday’s intergovernmental meeting at which officials from Richmond, Berea and Madison County discussed a variety of topics.)
BEREA — Plans were made Monday to discuss the future of Madison County emergency services after chemical weapons stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot are demolished and federal funds diminish.
The weapons, containing approximately 523 tons of lethal nerve agents, are scheduled to be destroyed by 2023, but Carl Richards, director of Madison County’s Emergency Management Agency told local leaders during a joint government meeting they need to have a plan installed prior to that date. The weapons could be gone as early as 2020, Richards said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars through the Madison Fiscal Court for many years to fund safety measures because of the chemical weapons storage.
However, when the stockpile goes, so will associated federal safety funding, Richards said.
The money is being used in several areas, including for emergency communications.
“It’s 911, it’s (emergency) sirens, it’s someone to work the sirens, it’s radio communications,” Richards said, naming examples of public safety services funded by the federal money.
Richards plans on looking at what other chemical weapons storage communities have done after their federal funding diminished. He intends to request “the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said. The information will show what has worked and what hasn’t in communities that lost FEMA dollars after their stored weapons were destroyed.
Most of the successful areas began planning for the future long before the funding went away, Richards said.
One community is considering creating a separate taxing district to fund its emergency services, he said.
“I know it’s a dirty word,” Richards said. “The (communities) who have been successful have done it through a tax somehow.”
Berea Mayor Steve Connelly said the first step toward being successful would be to take inventory of what services are necessary for the community’s well being and which services can be stopped.
If money for all needed services is unavailable, the solution might involve the legislature, local efforts, or a combination, Connelly said.
He suggested each local government — Richmond, Berea and Madison County — appoint people to examine options. Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes agreed.
The committee would be asked to report at future joint governmental meetings about what steps are being taken, Connelly said.
Judge/executive comments on fire station closure
Helping provide coverage after the planned closure of the Richmond’s fire station off Duncannon Lane is something the county is more than willing to do, according to Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark.
Interim Richmond City Manager Jimmy Howard announced July 10 he intends to close the fire station on Enterprise Drive off Duncannon Lane by Aug. 1. However, he said Monday that nothing has been “set in stone.”
District 1 Magistrate Larry Combs of Berea said last week there is no way he would agree to have the county take up the city’s slack.
“I don’t think we need to be spending county taxpayer dollars (for fire protection in Richmond),” he said, calling the move unfair to county taxpayers. “That’s in the city limits. I don’t understand why they’re closing (that fire station).”
Clark said Monday the issue had been “blown out of proportion.”
“We feel like we’re able to support Richmond in covering two miles of Duncannon,” Clark said. “If one government body can help another, then why wouldn’t we do it?”
Property owner on Duncannon Lane pay county property tax, including the farmers, the judge/executive said.
“It’s not like we’re taking funding that would go somewhere else,” Clark said. “It’s a collaborative effort for all of us to work together to help everybody.”
The county fire station at the US 25/421 junction currently covers about 50 square miles, and helping covering the new area along Duncannon Lane would not be new to the station, Madison County Fire Chief Jim Cox in an interview last week.
“We covered Duncannon Lane up until (Richmond) Station 5 was put in (on Enterprise Drive),” he said.
Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
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