LOUDON — The Loudon County Commission on Monday will
consider a request from the county Office of Homeland
Security for a $34,400 budget increase to maintain and
operate emergency preparedness equipment donated by the
federal government. Law enforcement and emergency response
leaders are enthusiastic about having access to the
Some community members question the additional maintenance
cost, wonder why it’s really needed and argue county
homeland security officials are acting autonomously without
proper review by the county.
The question, to Commissioner Brian Jenkins, is whether the
county can afford ongoing maintenance and operation costs
for the extra equipment.
“Even free stuff isn’t free,” he said.
Jenkins, a detective with the Loudon Police Department, said
he believes the equipment is a valuable resource. He said he
is leaning towards supporting the budget increase but wants
to understand the long-term costs. “The county budget is
tight right now,” he said.
Loudon’s Office of Homeland Security, formerly known as the
Emergency Management Agency, is staffed by Director Daryl
Smith and an assistant. The office operates on a yearly
budget of $156,472.
Smith’s department, located at the county E-911 offices
behind a fence with a sign that last week read “Fort Smith,”
has amassed a fleet of re-purposed and cast-off U.S.
military equipment including Humvees, heavy trucks and a
32-foot boat. “Daryl Smith has been doing an outstanding job
of upgrading the emergency management capabilities of the
county,” Jenkins said.
In a Sept. 10 letter to the
commission’s budget committee, a dozen community law
enforcement and emergency response officials expressed their
support for the budget increase. The budget committee
recommended an increase of $23,000.
At its Monday meeting, the commission could decide to
approve the recommended amount or the entire $34,400
request. 7 Humvees, a boat, tactical truck
According to Smith, the biggest expense associated with the
acquisition of the equipment is the cost of transportation
to the county, which has a population of about 50,000, from
the military and government facilities that release them.
Of all the equipment transferred, a 32-foot boat is perhaps
most significant, Smith said. Equipped with twin 225
horsepower engines, a radar and GPS, the boat will provide a
work platform for marine operations for all first response
agencies including the rescue divers, he said.
The boat, which is valued at an estimated $150,000 when
operational, would require about $17,000 in materials and
hardware upgrades. The labor on the boat is being provided
by volunteers. If the budget amendment is approved the boat
could be on the water in 60 days, Smith said.
The fleet also includes seven Humvees, one 10-ton HEMTT
(heavy expanded mobility tactical truck), five 5-ton
vehicles, a 25kW three-phase generator and a 60K BTU
“Additionally, the required equipment must be maintained
with the usual expense of oil changes, fuel, tires,
batteries and lighting,” the committee’s letter states. An
additional $17,400 was requested for operations and
Smith said the county must maintain the equipment in
inventory for one year. Equipment that becomes too expensive
to maintain can be scrapped and exchanged with equipment
that is in better shape.
“We’re not going to keep any equipment that needs a lot of
work,” he said.
Handy to have?
Lenoir City Director of Public Safety Don White said the new
equipment especially the boat, will be a welcome resource in
emergencies and special situations.
“We don’t necessarily need these things on a daily basis,
but they will be important when we need them,” he said.
White pointed to May 2011 flooding in Nashville in which the
water rose nearly 40 feet. Situated on Fort Loudoun Lake,
Lenoir City could be vulnerable to such a disaster, he said.
The boat, which might be fitted with a water cannon, would
also be useful in putting out marine fires, he said.
The Humvees could come in handy in case of heavy snow or
natural disasters such as the F-3 tornado that struck Lenoir
City in 1993. White said he remembers being unable to drive
police cruisers down the streets of the city due to
telephone poles downed by the tornado. “A Humvee can just
drive right over those downed poles,” he said.
City of Loudon Police Chief James “Bear” Webb also signed
the letter asking for more funding. Webb said the Homeland
Security Office provides a strong back-up to the city’s
emergency resources. Small cities such as Loudon can’t
afford to budget for emergency preparedness equipment that
might only be used occasionally, he said. “I think it’s an
excellent investment for the county,” he said.
Tellico Village resident Pandora Vreeland said she is
concerned that the Homeland Security Office did not seek
approval of an operating and maintenance budget before
acquiring the equipment. She also questioned the need for
some of it. “Doesn’t the Tennessee National Guard have
Humvees we could borrow in the event of an emergency?” she
Wayne Schnell, a leader in the Loudon County Tea Party,
plans to speak before the commission about the request. He
said he would have preferred that County Commission
conducted a study on long-term maintenance and cost of
operation before accepting the equipment.