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Anti-Terror Expenses to Be Repaid

Department of Homeland Security will partially reimburse California for costs incurred to prepare against attack. L.A. County will get $23.9 million.

August 05, 2003|Catherine Saillant | Times Staff Writer

Southern California's counties, cities and state agencies will receive more than $40 million to help repay the costs of preparing for a possible terrorist attack, Gov. Gray Davis announced Monday.

The money will help local governments and the state recoup some of the dollars spent out of their own budgets to purchase equipment, train emergency responders and coordinate among themselves as they combat and respond to terrorism, Davis said. Several counties will also be reimbursed for overtime paid to law enforcement during the war with Iraq, Davis said in a telephone news conference with reporters.

Los Angeles County will receive $23.9 million, the largest chunk of $119 million to be distributed statewide. Orange County is slated for $7 million, San Bernardino $4.1 million, Riverside County $3.8 million and Ventura County $1.8 million.

It is the latest infusion of federal grant money awarded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. California government agencies have received $500 million in federal funding since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but have spent about $700 million, the governor said.

"Our first responders have been doing double duty fighting both crime and terror," he said. "Our cities and counties shouldn't have to go broke to keep our cities safe."

California has spent more than other states because of its size and the likelihood that terrorists would target large cities such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, Davis said.

He has met with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge several times to press for full reimbursement of California's costs and said he will continue to do so.

Los Angeles has spent more than $90 million to bolster security at Los Angeles International Airport, and L.A. County has spent $28 million to set up two bioterrorism units.

Other money has been earmarked for 32 cities and some county agencies to buy breathing apparatus, safety suits and gear for detecting radiation.

Police Chief William Bratton said officers have been conducting regular exercises to prepare for the possibility of terrorism. On Sunday, more than 900 police, fire and health workers participated in a simulated terrorist attack exercise, he said.

"It was totally locally funded and that's a significant drain on our budgets," he said. "This money will go a long way toward equipment purchases we don't have money for, as well as coordination efforts with other agencies."

Ventura County will use its dollars to purchase protective suits for emergency responders, upgraded communication equipment and decontamination devices, Undersheriff Craig Underwood said.

The county also needs a new "bomb truck," used to transport suspicious materials, he said. Training exercises will be expanded to include agencies that have been left out in the past, Underwood said.

"Everybody has done very well in their own disciplines," he said. "Now it's time to bring everybody together."

Law enforcement agencies across the state worked overtime during the war with Iraq because of heightened fears of terrorism, said George Vinson, director of the California Office of Homeland Security.

Officers fanned out to patrol bridges, aqueducts and power grids, he said. In the last year alone, the California Highway Patrol has spent $20 million on training and overtime, a CHP official said.

The latest federal allocation will reimburse about $9 million of those costs. The National Guard will receive $5.3 million, and Forestry and Fire Protection $3.1 million.

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