Roddey deems security worth the cost
In Allegheny County Chief Executive Jim Roddey’s 2004 budget, the proposed Department of Homeland Security is the exception to the rule.
Although the remainder of the budget takes great pains — mostly at the row officers’ expense — to slim down county spending, the proposed homeland-security department has little, if anything, to do with money, said county Manager Bob Webb.
In his budget address Tuesday night, Roddey said the new department could make getting some federal grants for the county much easier.
The department’s $150,000 budget would go entirely toward salaries and benefits for a few employees, although the number of employees hasn’t been determined yet, Webb said.
He said the department’s director would be responsible for pursuing grants, conducting training sessions and acting as a primary supervisor for county police, emergency management, the jail and the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.
“It is a tremendous challenge to be prepared for natural disasters and terrorism. … The office (was proposed) based on recommendations from the state and federal governments to make certain we are prepared within the county,” Webb said.
The emergency-management department, run by Director Bob Full, now coordinates disaster plans for the county. Full also has a major role in the region’s disaster-response plans.
County Council President Rick Schwartz questioned why Roddey would want to put another director over Full, rather than expanding Full’s role.
“If you’re going to consolidate and save money, you should do it in every department,” said Schwartz, D-Plum.
For the existing county departments, little change would take place.
When Webb first recommended creating a homeland-security department in his Sunset Review Report on June 30, he said the “unique character” of each of the current departments should be preserved.
Webb said the homeland-security director would coordinate the common public-safety missions of those departments. The new department, for example, could integrate communications and computer systems for police and emergency management, helping to ensure that communication lines wouldn’t break down if a disaster occurred.
County Councilman Vince Gastgeb said that including county jail and the Shuman center into the proposed homeland-security department would help crime prevention. If one person would oversaw both the capture and treatment of offenders, recidivism could be reduced, the councilman said.
Gasteb, R-Bethel Park, said that having one director to oversee all the departments probably would reduce some duplicated services and, therefore, save the county money.
The decision to create a homeland-security department ultimately is up to County Council.