Lamar Co. renews $48K emergency management grant

By HASKEL BURNS,

Lamar County officials are renewing a yearly grant that will help the Lamar County Emergency Management Agency help fund some employee salaries, as well as contribute to possible special projects and equipment.

The Lamar County Board of Supervisors recently voted to approve the Emergency Management Performance Grant and program agreement for Fiscal Year 2020, in the amount of $48,092.67. The grant is originated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is then handled by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, which administers the funds locally.

“In a nutshell, it’s basically to keep your emergency management program performing to the highest level it possibly can; it kind of keeps it growing,” said James Smith, director of the Lamar County Emergency Management Agency. “So that’s a good thing in my opinion.

“It keeps you on your toes and keeps you aware of any changes, and the latest and greatest out there, if you will.”

The grant is meant to be a 50/50 match to help pay the salaries of the three emergency management employees that are employed on the grant and are required to meet terms of the grant.

“It’s supposed to pay 50 percent of their salary, but it does not, because $48,000 is all it pays,” Smith said. “But we have overmatched with the remainder of the 50 percent of that money, and that’s just because there’s not enough allocated for general government.”

Any entities – such as Lamar County – who do overmatch can apply for any additional funds left over at the end of the year, which can be put toward special projects in the county.

“So it’s not that complicated of a grant, but it’s meant to kind of develop your emergency management program and keep it running and active, and help offset some of the cost from the local government on it,” Smith said. “So it pays $48,000, and basically the only thing we’re claiming right now is salaries – you can’t claim operating expenses like telephone services and utility bills and stuff like that.

“You can buy some equipment on it, if you get it pre-approved, but just our salaries alone are well over what we’re allocated. So there’s no reason for us to try and dig any deeper because we’ve got so much overmatched money.”

In order to qualify for the grant, emergency officials were required to meet certain performance criteria, including certain training and exercise requirements.

“That’s very well documented,” Smith said. “They can audit that to make sure that we’re accountable for what we say we’re doing.

“Then we have to do several reports – quarterly reports on the money, to make sure that we are meeting those guidelines and requirements.”

Smith said although Lamar County is one of the lucky entities that could live without the grant money, it certainly helps in the long run.

“We’re doing these requirements anyway, so why not apply for the money and show them that we’re meeting the requirements, and keeping a robust, operational system in place?” he said. “We want to do our due diligence to release taxpayers from as much responsibility as we can, and also give them services they deserve.”