Hope grants in limbo as select board ponders emergency training
Hope — Hope has received notification from the state that it will not be in compliance with training requirements for the National Incident Management System if a course is not completed by all select board members by the end of September.
The Board of Selectmen agreed at its meeting Aug. 28 to give board members Wendy Pelletier and Brian Powers Jr. until its next meeting to decide whether to take the training.
Hope EMA Director Clarence Keller told board members the town will not be eligible for certain grants, namely one that pays a majority of the stipend for the EMA position, if the training is not completed.
On March 1, 2004, the Department of Homeland Security published the first National Incident Management System or NIMS. NIMS provides a consistent template enabling federal, state, tribal, and local governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations to work together to prepare for, prevent, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity, according to information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In 2009, Hope created an Emergency Management Ordinance that adopted NIMS as the municipal standard for all hazard incident management. The ordinance requires that members of the Board of Selectmen, the town administrator, emergency management director, town clerk, treasurer, code enforcement officer, fire chief or deputy chief, EMS service chief, road commissioner and animal control officer must take the training to be in compliance with NIMS, according to the ordinance.
Town Clerk Rosie Bowman also has yet to take the training, but all other officials have completed the program offered through Knox County Emergency Management Agency.
Pelletier opted not to take the training after she was elected in 2011 and, after contacting the state on her own, was told as long as a majority of the board had taken the training she didn't have to, Town Administrator Jon Duke said prior to the board meeting. Duke said at the meeting on Aug. 28 he received a letter from the state official who told Pelletier that information. The letter stated it is has always been the state's intention that all board members take the training and apologized for any misunderstanding.
Powers has six months to take the training, Duke said, noting he is new to the board, having been elected in June. Board member Jason Hall said he believes he is compliant through training at a former job with Camden Police Department. Tim Pearse and Eric Campbell took the training several years ago, they said.
Pelletier said at the meeting the state official was "pretty confident" that as long as the chairman (Pearse) and the vice chairman (Campbell) were compliant that was sufficient. She questioned how involved a board of selectmen would be in the event of an emergency or disaster and if the board has enough authority to change the process or procedure.
Keller said thankfully the town has never had an issue that requires anything above and beyond what EMA can handle, but thinks the more complex a situation becomes, it could become necessary to involve the board.
The course used to be online, but is now a training course held through Knox County Emergency Management Agency and is about two hours in length, Knox County EMA director Ray Sisk told the board.
Sisk told the board he was not at the meeting to "sell the program," but just wanted to give facts about the program.
"The real important piece is that on that bad day we are in a position to lead the town," Sisk said.
Keller said the course makes it so all town officials are trained to the same standard and talking the same language in the event of an incident.
If the town is not compliant with NIMS, it will not qualify to apply for specific grants, namely a grant that Hope obtains annually to help offset the cost of Keller's EMA stipends. Other grants in the past have also helped to purchase radio equipment for the fire department and Keller said the town received a $34,000 grant about eight years ago that the town would no longer be in consideration for.
"That's the carrot if you will," Keller told the board.
Powers questioned if a town needs to be NIMS compliant to be considered for federal disaster grants.
Sisk said if an event is a "Presidential-declared" disaster, a town does not need to be NIMS compliant.
"Whoever is sitting on the select board, you want them to be prepared to save your families," Pearse said. "It's not just a monetary issue, it's a moral issue when you take the oath [to be selectman]."
Keller must certify to the state by the end of September whether the town intends to become NIMS compliant.
The town of Rockport has opted not to take the training.
Sisk told the board he would be willing to set up a time for the training and even offered to give Pearse and Campbell a refresher course if they choose.
The next Hope Board of Selectmen meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 6:30 p.m. at Hope Town Office.
The Camden Herald reporter Kim Lincoln can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.