OPINION: Homeland Insecurity?

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The Cannon County Commission spent almost an hour of its monthly meeting Tuesday night discussing various concerns with the Cannon County Emergency Management Agency.

By comparison, commissioners spent only a few minutes discussing the major item on the agenda and the most important business they take up each year, approving the Appropriations for the county's annual budget and the Property Tax Rate to fund the expenditures.

What is ironic is that this year's budget includes no funding for Homeland Security, which comes from state and federal grants. Apparently with the nation's current fiscal woes, that money flow has ceased.

While it is unclear at this point whether there are any real or serious problems with the operation of the local Emergency Management Agency under the directorship of Faye Morse, it is clear that several county commissioners have questions.

They posed those question to Morse at Tuesday's meeting. Some of those same questions have been expressed to her at recent meetings of the county's Homeland Security Committee, which have turned contentious.

The concerns center around an inventory of items the EMA has purchased in past years with Homeland Security grant money, the current status and usage of the items, and the location of where equipment is stored.

There have also been complaints about lack of response to local emergency situations, which have reportedly brought about the need for outside agencies to be called in on several occasions.

From her standpoint, Morse believes she has performed well as EMA director. She points out that she wrote the grants that brought the state and federal money to the county. She serves as EMA director at no cost to the county as it is an unfunded position. She is on call 24/7. She must attend regional task force meetings and formulate emergency preparedness plans. She must have rapid access to the equipment to respond to emergency situations.

During Tuesday's meeting the commissioners called for a Special Session on Sept. 4 to further discuss the issues surrounding the Emergency Management Agency. Since then an Emergency Meeting of the commission has had to be called for this coming Monday night because it appears Morse may have been wrong when she told the commissioners Tuesday that she had been "grandfathered in" when the state established new certification criteria to serve as county-wide Fire Chief, leaving the local volunteer fire department personnel without death benefit coverage and fundraising capabilities.

The position of EMA Director is appointed by the county executive upon approval of the county commission. It may be that a change in leadership is the only way the current controversy will come to an end.
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Members Opinions:
August 16, 2012 at 6:04am
Good luck on finding someone else to do the job as Faye has done for years. Who else will volunteer the hours of 24/7 with no pay? People talk but do nothing. It is better to work out the problem with Faye. What other family has four or more members volunteering time for the county? Sweetie
August 16, 2012 at 8:16am
I think it is in the best interest for all the county emergency responders to have a change in the EMA director. Sadly the public is not totally aware of everything the current director has performed wrong. I am not saying she is a bad person, she can be nice and good at what she does at times, but with her lacking certification for near 3 years now to be fire chief and the lack of time to complete an inventory list for all the EMA supplies I feel someone else needs to be appointed. She has been given extra time while other departments including fire and rescue were able to submit theirs on time. As to the question you raise Sweetie about who has a family with four or more members volunteering time for the county, my family is one for example. We are all on fire departments for the county and respond to whatever call we receive.
August 16, 2012 at 8:24am
I agree with Kevin. If she doesn't get certified as REQUIRED by law, and doesn't address the shortcomings that have been found, she should be removed.
August 16, 2012 at 9:38am
Having a truck to drive fuel to run it phone bill paid.All by the TAXPAYER ! Not to bad a pay check? Look at the budget
August 16, 2012 at 4:20pm
Thats a good point minn.
August 16, 2012 at 5:17pm
It is a point I overlooked. The FY2012-2013 county budget does include EMA funding in the amount of $13,760. Majors expenses are $5,000 for Communications, $3,500 for Gasoline, $1,500 for Other Supplies and Materials and $1,000 each for Maintenance and Repair Services - Vehicles and for Communications Equipment.
August 16, 2012 at 6:43pm
If she was working in an out of government job and she did questionable procedures or did not get the proper training as required she would be fired no questions asked.

The question here is not how many hours she put in. The question is her administrative procedures. She did not administrate this position to the standards that the office required and now we have a county fire department that is not covered by the state, because of a 16 hour course that was not taken in 2006. This course to my understanding only had to be taken one time and our county would be compliant.

Just to be clear, it seemed there was no volunteering to this job, and there was some sort of payment made. Example being the taxpayers paying for her vehicles and the gas in said vehicle. I believe she was also questioned a while back as stated in a past article right here in this paper, that she had not had the required monthly meetings in a few years, and money was being spent without accountability or approval. There are certain checks and balances in the government that should be made. This was one that was missed.
August 16, 2012 at 8:07pm
I think Ms.morse should step down untill this mess is cleared up,The equipment that belongs to the taxpayers should be stored at the 911 center.She uses the truck for personal use, this is common knowledge.Also the people need to know who decided that the previous truck had a bad engine.Why did it end up back at her house instead of offered to the highest bidder.Why was this kept from the taxpayers.She has been an still is taking advantage of her position.Do what is right an step down Ms.Morse.
August 17, 2012 at 3:48am
Countywide Fire Chief and EMA Director are separate positions. One works under the auspices of the State Fire Marshal's Office and the other that of TEMA/FEMA.

Neither position is a salaried or hourly job for the county. It is unlikely someone would take on the position of EMA Director with the stipulation that they had to furnish their own emergency management vehicle, and pay for maintenance, gasoline, communications equipment and communications capabilities out of their own pocket.

It is my understanding the EMA vehicles are paid for with grant money. Local taxpayers fund gasoline, maintenance, communications, etc.

I would not be surprised nor would I be concerned to find out that other officials tasked with responding to emergency situations kept their vehicles at their disposal 100 percent of the time, especially those on call 24/7.
August 23, 2012 at 10:10pm
I'm am a firefighter and you don't see me runing making stops at co-op or Osborn's. In my dept fire truck? I'm on call 24/7 and I pay for my fuel to run my pov to a call.
August 24, 2012 at 8:12am
Whether it be local taxes that are used to fund the gasoline, maintenance, and communications, etc. or it be a Fedearal Grant, all funding is at the taxpayers expense and all such funding must be subject to accountability to the taxpayer. We saw with REACH how easily it was for monies to be mishandled. Even though Federal money flows "through" the county coffers, there must be an accounting of these monies as well. Sadly, Federal grant money is looked upon as "someone's else' money." It is in fact, our money. Funds are generated from taxes we pay the Federal Government. There should be no less accounting done for Federal money than there is local tax money. Our county government must understand more clearly that "they" are responsible for ALL monies that flow through our county system. No department head should think otherwise. Enforcement of good accounting practices is a must. The lack of it has already gotten us into lots of trouble this year. Why leave the door open for more?
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