GOVERNMENT NEWS

City snares $2 million for emergency preparedness At a time when government leaders are cutting libraries and park budgets and basic city services, the city has received $2 million in antiterrorism grants, preparing for a worst-case attack.

The city has used the money to buy chemical suits, radiation detectors, defibrillators, portable weather stations, night- vision gear, body armor and gas masks with weapons-of-mass-destruction filters, according to a list released by Kristi Rollwagen, an emergency preparedness coordinator with the Minneapolis Fire Department. The city is using the money to begin weapons-of-mass-destruction training for first responders such as police officers, fire fighters and public works staff.

The city's success in bringing in grant dollars played a part in returning 32 laid-off firefighters back to their jobs early, Rollwagen said.

She provided the following list of successful grants:

2002

  • $130,000 from the state for 850 3M gas masks -- the "6000 series full facepiece with soft carrying case and FR-64 WMD [weapons-of-mass-destruction] filter;"

  • $115,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for water infrastructure security;

  • $105,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for cardiac defibrillators used by the fire department;

  • $50,000 from the Medical Reserve Corps to organize civilian emergency response teams;

  • $201,246 from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for equipment, including $19,500 for 50 dosimeters to detect radiation exposure; $15,000 for the bomb squad's decontamination tent, $7,500 for chemical protective gear and $4,900 for a mobile meteorological station;

  • $321,270 from the state for training. It will pay for firefighters' overtime to attend a 16-hour course on responding to a terrorist attack at an "operations level," meaning they could work in a "hot zone" of a biological or chemical release, Rollwagen said. It pays for police overtime to attend courses on traffic control, incident command and specialized weapons-of-mass-destruction training;

  • $87,415 from the state. It will pay to update the city's emergency operations plan and hire a consultant to do a threat assessment for fire, natural disasters and terrorist attacks; and

  • $51,575 from the state for the Citizen Corps initiative.

    2003

  • $135,578 from FEMA for fire department fire hose nozzles and adapters;

  • $357,196 from DOJ for equipment and training. Expenditures include $107,000 for water works security; $94,000 to equip police "entry teams" and bomb squad with night-vision gear; $60,000 for "responder awareness training" for public works staff; $15,000 to retrofit a van for hostage negotiators; and $8,000 for body armor; and

  • $500,000 from DOJ for police overtime funds for emergency preparedness.

    Several large grant applications are still pending for 2003. The city has applied for $1.6 million grant from the Metro Radio Board to upgrade its mobile data network system and for $3.2 million from DOJ for computer-aided dispatch (CAD) equipment for police and fire. The CAD system has vehicle-location systems, allowing dispatchers to identify the vehicles nearest an

    incident and thereby reduce response times. -- Scott Russell

    City lifts home loan refinancing limits The city's Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) Department has reversed field on its loan subordination policy.

    The department is again allowing people with city-backed loans to refinance, with certain restrictions.

    Homeowners with existing city-backed loans cannot refinance unless the city agrees to subordinate its loan, giving the new mortgage lender first call on assets. The city had restricted subordinations earlier this year because they take time and paperwork and the agency had had significant staff cuts. People with city-backed loans could subordinate one time only and had restrictions on cash-out refinancing.

    Mark Anderson of CPED said the agency found money to maintain a staff person to do subordination paperwork.

    CPED is the new agency that includes the former Minneapolis Community Development Agency and other city departments. -- Scott Russell

    City Council actions 9/12/03Firefighters: The City Council voted 13-0 to rehire 32 laid-off firefighters, effective Sept. 21, increasing the average number of firefighters from 95 daily to 105 daily, approaching the goal of 110 firefighters daily, a figure the department considers full staffing.

    Reprieved home: Council voted 13-0 to allow the new owner of 2717 Emerson Ave. S. to rehabilitate the property. It had been slated for demolition.

    Art accountability: Council voted 13-0 to accept ownership and maintenance responsibility for the East Harriet Farmstead neighborhood gateway.

    Pension debt: Council voted 11-2 to sell $18 million in pension bonds to fund a portion of the city's obligation to the Minneapolis Police Relief Association, a closed pension fund with shortfalls. Lisa Goodman (7th Ward) and Scott Benson (11th Ward) voted no. -- Scott Russell