Federal spending cuts have limited grants for Bell County and Copperas Cove that would help supply new state-mandated radio equipment.
“We came up with a plan to change everyone over in our region on a five-year plan,” said Jim Reed, executive director of the Central Texas Council of Governments, which helps manage several regional issues for multiple counties.
Funding for the emergency response radio system was allocated from Federal Emergency Management Agency grants the council of governments expected to regularly receive, Reed said.
“But (the funding) was cut by the federal government,” he said.
Copperas Cove Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young said the new system will allow every emergency responder in Texas to communicate with each other.
Each year, the FEMA grant that was supposed to supply those funds decreased, Reed said. Now, the region’s five-year plan looks more like a 10-year plan.
Copperas Cove and Bell County were to receive funds during a four-year period. During the first year, all the money was given to rural areas, he said. Bell County and Copperas Cove agreed to an 80/20 percent split on funds.
This year, Copperas Cove got about $60,000, Young said. The city will use the money either to purchase some of the remaining radios or on infrastructure, he said.
During the last three years, Copperas Cove received about $240,000 for the radios, with $80,000 last year, Young said.
The grants helped to purchase 76 of 345 communications systems needed in the city at a cost of about $3,300 each.
The intention was that the five-year plan would fund all the radios, Young said, “but the funding in the five-year plan was (originally) for much more than we have been getting.”
To prevent residents from funding the radios, Copperas Cove has been vigilant in trying to obtain other grants.
Earlier this month, Copperas Cove received a grant for about $100,000. It had a 10 percent match, however, which means the city will chip in $10,000 for the radio purchase.
Young said the money should supply nearly 30 radios for the Cove fire department.
Reed said he was sure Bell County was attempting to take the same steps to fund radio and infrastructure upgrades to be in compliance with state law.
Reed estimated there are between 1,000 and 2,000 radios servicing Bell County, some of which have already been updated.