Compass: To Protect and Spend?

The 5 o'clock rush in Menomonie just isn't what you'd find in a larger city, but the thought of breaking down on Highway 29, or breaking through the ice on Lake Menomin probably crosses minds before the thought of terrorism does there.

That's not necessarily the case for their local congressman.

"There's really isn't any soft spots anymore in America," said Third District Congressman Ron Kind.

But let's not kid ourselves, It's the War in Iraq that gets attention in 2006 before a potential threat to the homeland, especially in the Chippewa Valley.

"II'm afraid that we're taking our eye off the ball because of that."

"Do we wait till we get attacked and then say 'You know, we oughta put up more defenses?'" asked Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer.

The resounding answer is no.

Proven in the form of billions of dollars in Homeland Security Funding, allocated to municipalities everywhere.

"It's based on a formula used at the National Security Agency in coordination with state agencies too," Congressman Kind said.

"Some of the funds went directly to hospitals, some went directly to agencies, so it depends on who's doing the counting," said Chippewa County Emergency Management Director Dennis Brown.

In this case, it was emergency management officials prior to 2003, and people at the Office of Justice Assistance ever since.

They consider money allotted since 1999 to be Homeland Security funds since that money was still being distributed after September 11, 2001.

The bulk of it in the Chippewa Valley went to Eau Claire County: almost $1.2 million during the last six years.

"IIf you don't show a need, it could go someplace else in the State of Wisconsin," Sheriff Cramer said.

So, sheriff's deputies bought a $180,000 armored vehicle to fight crime and to fight terrorism. It was merely a conversation piece during prior years.

They outfitted the Eau Claire Fire Department with technical rescue equipment, got a $25,000 x-ray inspection system for the city police, which they've used four times during the year they've had it (never to fight terrorism in the the Chippewa Valley, but useful nevertheless), and sprinkled security cameras around the county courthouse.

"We've tried for years to get that...through levee dollars and it's just not available."

In Chippewa County, where more than $600,000 were provided for homeland security, they've also upgraded their camera system at the county courthouse, which is connected to a plasma monitor in their communication center.

"We have twenty-some cameras and to get a picture that's legible, you need a high-resolution screen," Brown said.

They were also able to upgrade their equipment for the swat and dive teams, bring in night and thermal vision for officers, and secure water departments with fencing and alarm systems.

All leading to better protection of county neighbors regardless of the nature of the crime.

Though Dunn County's near $290,00 is a fraction of what the other counties received, their investments are perhaps the most visible.

The sheriff says a $140,000 Mobile Command Center is also for a tornado, bombing, fire, or murder investigation.

"Almost any kind of incident it can be used in," said Dunn County Sheriff Dennis Smith.

A $99,000 generator was installed outside the county Government Center, which can run power and telephones should the need arise.

Chippewa Valley Technical College got $4,200 as part of Eau Claire County's funding to teach emergency service officers and managers how to get organized at the scene of a disaster.

Apparently it's more than just those rescue workers who need help getting organized.

"The money was made available without a method of having some accountability on how it was spent," said Sheriff Smith

Intentions for the cash seem to be good in the Chippewa Valley, but that's not good enough for members of Congress who are talking change right now.

"It just isn't being done at the level that I would expect," Congressman Kind said.

"We don't expect to see the funds that we did in the past," said Brown.

That's not to say more money won't come to the Chippewa Valley, as unlikely as Al-Qaida's arrival on your doorstep may seem.

"But there may be a business here in Eau Claire raising money under the radar that nobody knows about," Sheriff Cramer said.

Or within a miniature 5-o'clock rush, where skeptical officers hope federal funding is enough to keep you safe, whatever the threat may be.

Here's a more comprehensive list of each county's purchases:

Eau Claire County (nearly $1.2 million):

Mobile Incident: Command Post, Generator, Remote Cameras (for view of incident-located at Township Fire Department)

Technical Rescue: Equipment to develop a collapse rescue team resource (located at the Eau Claire Fire Department)

Video Camera for Evidence Collection (located at Eau Claire Police Department)

Building Security Equipment: Cameras and Camera Recording/Management System (located at Sheriff's Department)

X-Ray Inspection System: See Into Boxes/Containers Without Touching, Vehicle Searches (located at Eau Claire Police Department)

Threat Assesment Study: Identify Primary Targets for Security Enhancement

Interoperable Communications Study

Interoperable Communications Implementation: MARC System, Regional Mutual Aid Radio System, Reprogramming (West Central Interoperability Alliance)

Thermal Imaging Camera: To see hot areas through wall coverings (located in Fairchild)

Emergency Radio Equipment for 911 Center (located in Eau Claire County Communication Center)

Chippewa County (nearly $600,000)

SCBAs (breathing apparatus)
Medical Equipment/Trauma Supplies
Radio Communication Equipment
Night Vision for law enforcement
Thermal imaging
SWAT equipment
Alarms systems and security fences at water departments
Courthouse security and other critical infrastructure
Mapping software
Equipment trailer
Communication system for the dive team
Dispatch electronics
Generators
Decontamination equipment for hospitals

(They already had command vehicles, backup communications, and a mass-casualty trailer)

Dunn County (nearly $290,000):

County-Wide
Government Center backup generator to insure continued operations of county-wide telephone and computer systems

Mobile Command Vehicle
Multi-channel emergency band mobile radios with paging systems
Private Branch Exchange Wiring

E911 Center
Backup center console radio with digital/DVP paging capabilities

Hazmat Team
Hazmat detection equipment (dosimeter, CK Calibration Kit, RAE Mimirae PID Monitor)
Personal Protection Equipment (cooling vets, escape breathing apparatus
Decontamination equipment
Chemical agent detector

Emergency Management
ID Card Software & Printer

Ambulance
Vehicle radio
EMS software for Field PDA’s

Law Enforcment
Vehicle radio
10-Minute Escape Breathing Apparatus for all county law enforcement agencies
33 Personal Protective Equipment packages for area law enforcement agencies

Fire
Portable generator
Search & Rescue Rope, Life Safety

First Responders
Oxygen administration equipment
Automatic External Defibrillator

Red Cross
Rapid Deployment Shelter Trailer to serve Dunn and 12 other counties in service area


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