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Utah Spends Less Than Half of Homeland Security Funds

Utah Spends Less Than Half of Homeland Security Funds



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah has spent less than half the federal money authorized for its homeland security.

Records obtained by the Deseret Morning News show Utah agencies were authorized to spend $26.7 million but spent only $12.6 million, or 47.2 percent of what Congress appropriated in 2004, the newspaper reported in a copyright story Monday.

"Don't worry, it will all be spent eventually. None will be turned back," said Kris J. Hamlet, financial officer for the state Division of Emergency Services and Homeland Security.

His office is just now closing out grants awarded for the 2002 fiscal year, and the staff is really only starting work in earnest on the more recent grants, he said.

Most of the Homeland Security money coming to Utah, while administered by state agencies, actually flows through to counties and cities.

Utah state law enforcement agencies spent only 34.1 percent ($1.8 million) of what they could have last year. Congress authorized $5.3 million for Utah state government spending, records obtained through the Government Records Access and Management Act show.

Hamlet said much of the state spending comes in large chunks, and the state is about ready to bring on a substantial communications construction project, which will be a $1.2 million draw on congressional funds.

Much of the equipment that is purchased with the funds have uses beyond battling terrorism.

The equipment includes radios and laptop computers.

The state bomb squad bought eight Segways -- two-wheel personal transport vehicles -- for $96,000.

Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy, who is a member of the state's bomb squad, said the Segways can prove valuable for bomb technicians, who are required to wear protective suits weighing more than 80 pounds and walk anywhere between 300 and 1,000 feet.

"When you put on the 80-pound bomb suit in 90-degree weather and walk to the bomb, you're about dead when you get to it," he said. "You can be dehydrated to the point of exhaustion."

In Utah, much of the money that went to municipal public safety agencies was spent on communication equipment, training and high-tech vehicles.

Various Utah County emergency and police agencies together spent $1 million on an interoperational communications system. The system will allow departments to communicate with each other, and officers in outlying areas to remain in contact with their dispatch centers and other, neighboring agencies.

The state Agriculture Department spent 97 percent of its money last year, most of it -- $102,435 -- on laboratory equipment for its Logan and Nephi facilities.

The state Department of Public Safety spent $400,000 on weapons of mass destruction training programs and $1.2 million on WMD exercises.

The St. George Fire Department made one of the single largest purchases, $452,000 for a "heavy rescue vehicle."

Salt Lake County's United Fire District bought a single hazmat vehicle for $223,000. Emery County spent $200,000 on its hazmat truck.

A number of counties and individual agencies spent cash on "mobile command" vehicles, ranging from $30,000 to nearly $75,000 per truck. Hazmat trucks cost upward of $250,000 each, and most of the seven Homeland Security regions bought one.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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