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Feds give money to fix communication - Odessa American: News

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Feds give money to fix communication

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Posted: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 12:00 am

WASHINGTON The government announced Wednesday it will distribute nearly $1 billion to states and cities to fix communications problems that still plague police and fire departments six years after the Sept. 11 terror attacks — something Odessa’s police chief says is important.

“We wouldn’t be able to have access to a lot of expensive technology without these expense grants,” Odessa Police Chief Chris Pipes said. “Nobody likes paying taxes, but if we’re all paying federal income taxes anyway, we’re going to work very hard to bring those dollars back to benefit Odessans.”

For the federal money, the biggest state recipients are California with $94 million, Texas with $65 million and New York with $61 million.

In certain states, chunks will be specifically set aside for major cities: New York City will get $34.8 million and the Los Angeles/Long Beach area was awarded $22.3 million. Other cities getting specific amounts were: San Francisco Bay area, $14.5 million; Chicago, $16.2 million; Houston, $14.6 million; Jersey City-Newark, $17.5 million; and Washington, D.C., $11.9 million.

A total of $968 million for interoperable communications grants was announced Wednesday by the heads of the departments of Homeland Security and Commerce, after a review earlier this year found that of 75 major U.S. cities, only six received a top grade in emergency communications.

The money, said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, will answer “the urgent need for firefighters, police, and other first responders to be able to communicate effectively with one another.”

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the money should get the entire country up to a basic standard of effective emergency communication by 2009 — but only if the local authorities coordinate with each other and avoid turf fights.

“That’s not something the federal government can make people do,” said Chertoff. “We can put the tools on the table, but the training and the willpower to use the tools has to rest with state and local officials.”

Congress provided the money in a 2005 bill, seeking to address lingering radio problems exposed when hijacked airliners struck the World Trade Center in New York in 2001.

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