County holding Grand Gulf emergency funds for now

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 13, 2009

Warren County will continue analyzing equipment and supply needs in its own departments before dispersing any of the reimbursement money it receives for Grand Gulf-related emergency drills, supervisors said Thursday.

The decision shuns a request from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency for the county to pay the City of Vicksburg 75 percent of a $6,000 payment from Entergy Nuclear plus half its cash balance from earlier drills.

“It’ll be by who’s involved and to what extent,” Board President Richard George said. “The money has to have some specific purposes.”

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County officials acknowledged that payments to cover part of the cost of preparations have built up in recent years, equaling about $30,000. Vicksburg officials recently learned the county has been getting the money and declined to participate in the drills unless city expenses were paid.

Grand Gulf, Mississippi’s only nuclear plant, is in Claiborne County, and Vicksburg and Warren County have long been identified as evacuation and decontamination sites in the event of a failure at the plant.

County Administrator John Smith said most of the money the county has received would likely be spent this year on equipment upgrades.

Supervisors already have announced cuts were likely in all departments, though no jobs would be affected. Also, donations to charitable organizations allowable only by act of the Legislature, were to be sliced from the original $1.8 million in the 2008-09 budget.

Supervisors have criticized estimates by the city pegging its training costs at about $19,500 because they contend it is based on drills taking place year-round.

The exercises are held about every two years, with reimbursements aimed at defraying costs for direct planning expenses, such as suits and supplies used by fire and law enforcement agencies who take part.

All counties are required to have comprehensive emergency management plans spelling out responses during natural disasters, chemical accidents or other emergencies. The first parts of Warren County’s comprehensive plan were accepted by supervisors in 2007, covering general definitions. Emergency support functions, or a detailed report on which local government departments respond and to what degree, have yet to be agreed upon.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mayor Laurence Leyens criticized the county and state for not having adequate emergency plans and created a separate city emergency management department and plan. It was in that process that the city learned of the Entergy payments and asked state officials to become involved. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency suggested a pro-rata split and, earlier, George said he did not think that would be unfair.

The city has also asked that the staging area for a decontamination shower at a drill planned for March be moved from Warren Central High School, where the state has suggested, to Vicksburg Municipal Airport because of its location on U.S. 61 South being along the logical evacuation route.


Contact Danny Barrett Jr. at