Elm City is denied antiterror funding

New Haven has again been left off the list of cities eligible for a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant targeted to help urban areas, according to an announcement from the department last week.

Although New Haven received more than $9.5 million two years ago under the program, known as the Urban Areas Security Initiative, it was dropped from the list of eligible cities last year. While local and state officials said they had hoped New Haven would be reinstated to the list following changes to the formula used by the Department of Homeland Security to determine a city’s risk, the new guidelines do not allow Connecticut cities to apply for a 2006 grant.

“Connecticut is being short-changed again,” Gov. M. Jodi Rell said in a statement last Tuesday. “The ports along our coastline … should be regarded at least as great a terror-target risk as cities like Omaha, Neb., and Louisville, Ky.”

After New Haven received money in 2004, the city was able to begin projects, including improvements to communication networks between fire, police and emergency medical services, but has been unable to execute all of its plans since its federal Homeland Security grant was cut, said Wayne Sandford, deputy commissioner for the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

“They have this really nice plan, and the federal government paid to help develop the plan, but now that they don’t have the money they’ll only be able to implement a piece of it,” Sandford said.

Sandford said his department successfully lobbied the federal government to change some of the criteria used to determine a city’s eligibility, but those changes still did not bring any Connecticut city onto the list. Some of the changes, such as accounting for a city’s population density and lowering the minimum population, specifically benefit New England cities, which tend to be smaller but denser than cities in other regions, he said.

Steven Llanes, a spokesman for the federal Department of Homeland Security, said the UASI formula accounts for a city’s vulnerability, the threat level it faces, and the consequences of an attack. Connecticut is still eligible for many other grants, he said, including grants for transportation security, fire response and community preparedness, even though New Haven is not on the UASI list.

“It doesn’t mean there isn’t threat and risk in New Haven, and we’ve been able to reflect that in other funding streams,” Llanes said. “Collectively, Connecticut and the New Haven region have received in the last four years $147 million in Homeland Security funding.”

Federal money is allocated to protect such potential targets as the Metro-North and Shoreline East railroads in New Haven. Connecticut as a whole received more than $24 million in such grants last year.

Still, local officials said they are frustrated by the government’s decision, both because of the plans the city has had to put aside and because some officials believe the formula remains biased against cities like New Haven.

“Governor Rell has made it quite clear that Connecticut is being shortchanged, that some of the criteria the federal government uses does not reflect unique aspects of Connecticut, such as our multiple ports along the coast, and the fact that our city boundaries do not necessarily reflect the size of our metro areas,” Rell spokesman John Wiltse said. “It does not reflect the hazards that may exist, for example, in Greater New Haven, which is a much larger and more complex area than the city of New Haven proper.”

John Buturla, New Haven’s chief administrative officer, said the city will be able to secure other funding from Homeland Security for its port and its rail system, but has had to postpone work on a plan to integrate fire and police communications systems and a plan formed with neighboring counties on ways to share resources and personnel in case of an attack.

“We built a plan assuming that there would be sustainable funding,” Buturla said.

Llanes said the UASI list is never intended to be final, but rather changes as different threats arise.

“The UASI list isn’t static, [and] because one city doesn’t receive funding one year doesn’t mean it won’t receive it the next year,” he said.

For fiscal 2006, 35 areas are eligible to apply for a UASI grant, which provides $765 million for areas identified by the department as high risk.

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