BENTON -- In a split vote, the Regional Homeland Security Oversight Committee for Southeast Missouri recently approved the purchase of two MC2 Mobile Communicator SUVs at a cost of $300,000 each.
"I strongly disagreed with this vote; I think it was not wise appropriations," said Scott County Commissioner Jamie Burger, one of the 13 voting members of the Oversight Committee. "These are strictly communications vehicles. Now if we show up for an emergency we can't give any help other than communications."
Under the proposal submitted by Rick Ennis, Cape Girardeau's fire chief, the vehicles will be Chevrolet Suburban 2500 4x4s equipped as command and communications vehicles.
One of the vehicles is to be located in Cape Girardeau and the other in Kennett.
The purchase was approved by a vote of 7-6.
"It was controversial -- there was a lot of disagreement, a lot of statements made, a lot of discussion," Burger said. "I just don't think this was representative of what was needed in Region E."
Oversight Committee member Lt. Ken Dicus of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, who was among those who voted for the SUVs, disagrees.
He said the SUVs meet the regional concept of "what will best serve the region of Southeast Missouri."
Dicus also said that, as of this time, "nothing has been appropriated -- this still has to be approved at the state level and it still has to be approved at the federal level."
Dicus said those who voted with him for the SUVs were doing so from the point of view of law enforcement, emergency medical services and fire protection.
"Our job is saving lives," he said. "I've worked a number of emergencies. Always one of your major issues is communications. ... From the emergency response point of view, that would be the best way to serve the residents of Southeast Missouri."
The committee is responsible for deciding how to spend Homeland Security funding for its region which includes the same 13 counties of the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Region E, according to Burger.
There was a total of $1,040,356.73 for Region E in this round of funding and four categories in which the funds may be spent: agricultural risk mitigation programs; strengthening interoperable communications capabilities at the state's regional and state levels; mass care and citizen protection; and for volunteers and donations.
Burger said his proposal, which was voted down 6-7, would have equipped each county with their own trailer equipped with supplies that could be distributed to residents following a disaster.
"My question is, if we polled the citizens would they rather see each county get a trailer or two Suburbans for $600,000 for a 13-county Region E area?" Burger asked.
A compromise of buying 13 trailers and one of the Suburbans was even discussed, Burger said.
Dicus said Burger and those who voted for the trailers were "trying to make sure that every county got their own little part of this" while the communications SUVS will "much more serve the region of Southeast Missouri than to put a lot of equipment in some trailers."
The trailers "would really provide no avenue to assist with the emergency services point of view," Dicus said.
Burger said Scott County will not be as bad off as some of the other counties as it is located next to Cape Girardeau where one of the SUVs will be located.
Even so, "I want everybody to know that I voted no, that I voiced my objections strongly along with everybody who voted against it. I just think we would have been much better off if we spent something on each county. We have nothing now," Burger said. "If we had a tornado at Commerce, we could have showed up with our trailer and had some needed supplies, been able to give some items to some people. If we have a tornado come through Scott City and into Cape Girardeau, I don't think that Suburban will come down to help Scott City."
In addition to the SUV command centers, the Oversight Committee also agreed on a total of $50,000 for agricultural risk mitigation in the region.
Under the proposal submitted by Rick Ennis, Cape Girardeau's fire chief, the vehicles will be Chevrolet Suburban 2500 4x4s equipped with heavy-duty suspension, a 200-amp alternator upgrade, auto throttle, dual battery system, seating for four including an operator station, a roof deck, 10 roof-
top mounted antennas and rack space for optional equipment and an emergency lighting package.
The SUVs are to be equipped with a global navigation system, infrastructure support package, cell phone, portable and mobile radios, telephones with Voice Over the Internet Protocol, Advanced Radio Interoperability System, real-time video and audio recording capabilities, a signal repeater, satellite connectivity and a remote pod to allow all the systems to be moved inside a building if needed.
The estimated cost for the SUVs is $300,000 each.
The projected cost is $700 to $1,000 per month to keep the satellite transmission open for the vehicles.
Under the proposal submitted by Scott County Commissioner Jamie Burger, each of the trailers would have consisted of a 30-by-8-foot box trailer equipped with stabilization jacks at the corners, antennae, fluorescent lighting, electric heat and a roof-mounted air conditioning, insulated walls and ceiling and communications seating.
Powered by a 5 kilowatt generator, the trailers would have had both interior and exterior electrical receptacles in addition to a mobile radio and interoperable radios.
The estimated cost for each equipped trailer was $34,813.
The trailers would have been stocked with a list of items recommended by the Red Cross and county health departments including cots, blankets, pillows, food and drink that can be stored for an extended length of time, utensils, comfort kits, an ID card maker, a large tent, tarps, plastic sheeting, duct tape and a portable lighting system.
The cost for the list of items was estimated to be $21,592 for each trailer, bringing the total cost per trailer to $56,405.