LEPC discusses funding

St. MARYS — With less federal and state funding and fewer grants available, Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) members are making financial plans for the future.

“We’re having discussions,” Wapak-oneta Fire Chief and LEPC Chair Kendall Krites told the group during a regular meeting Wednesday in St. Marys. “I have concerns looking down the road.”

He said if the LEPC continues to fund the Auglaize County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) at its current rate of $26,000 annually, one or both accounts would be bankrupt within five or six years.

Discussing what amount EMA Director Troy Anderson would need to support the county agency, he said he could manage with less each year, which would keep the funds financially solvent.

Krites said for now they still planned to provide well above the bare minimum needed by the EMA for services they provide to the LEPC. An estimate of $18,500 was discussed to provide to the EMA each year, but nothing decided for sure and any actual figure based on grant availability.

“We’re not going to be able to continue down this path,” Krites said. “Everyone is tightening their belts, from the federal level down to the local level. The funds are not there like they used to be. We’ve got to tighten our belts like everyone else.”

While Krites’ concerns were met with some opposition from the LEPC membership, he said nothing was set in stone.

“We had a brainstorming session,” Krites said. “I’m not willing to stick my head in the sand.”

Board member Don Jump recommended projecting to receive even less in state and federal grant funding in the next five years and hope for higher amounts.

This year, the EMA received $19,000 in an LEPC grant. They have factored the same amount for subsequent years, although there are no guarantees grant funding will be at that level.

“We’re going to have to look at this annually,” Krites said. “We’re going to have to see where things go.”

He anticipated reviewing figures and projected funding late this year or early next before making another payment, or determining its amount, to the EMA.

Anderson said by October he would have a better feel for how funding might play out for the agency and would be able to provide hours and documentation to show how much is needed and how it’s being used.

“I appreciate you looking at the fund and making sure we have what we need in the future to operate on and a balance in the event of a situation that we need to spend money,” Auglaize County Red Cross Director Ken Cline said.

Sheriff Al Solomon said looking at the situation now, before it’s a necessity, is what is important.

“The EMA office provides a very vital service to the LEPC and we need to continue to pay funds to them, but it needs to be based on the services the EMA provides to LEPC,” Krites said.