State seeks aid in event of attacks

Glendening to ask for $200 million in federal money

Creating 6 security teams

Governor considers establishing office similar to Ridge's

November 02, 2001|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,SUN STAFF

Maryland plans to seek more than $200 million from the federal government to guard against and respond to terrorist threats, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday.

The funds would pay for such things as enhanced airport security and new patrols along state rivers and ports. They also would help hospitals better prepare for bioterrorism.

Glendening, after meeting with about a dozen county executives and other local officials at the State Emergency Operations Center, also said he was creating regional "rapid response teams" to provide expertise at the site of emergencies. And he said he was considering naming a "state security secretary" -- akin to the federal homeland security post filled by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge -- and an accompanying council to oversee readiness for terrorism.

He said it's not clear if the post would be Cabinet level.

The uncertainty over the proposed job reflected the haste in which the governor is trying to act to meet the developing threat. Even as yesterday's news briefing was being planned, various counties were finalizing wish lists of items they consider important to protect their residents from terrorism.

"This is all still evolving," said Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. "But these are items we know we need above and beyond our budgets. In local government, we are the first responders."

The state's federal funding request amounted to $128 million. Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill said that the state list and the counties' lists will be merged but that some of the items are likely to be dropped because of duplication or because they are not considered urgent.

The largest county funding request, at $156 million, was from Prince George's. The rest of the counties' lists totaled about $120 million.

Baltimore City had the next highest request at $38 million. It seeks more than $9 million in anticipated police expenditures, among other spending.

One new item going forward immediately is the governor's plan for six "rapid response teams" -- for Western Maryland, Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland, the Baltimore area, the Washington suburbs, and one statewide team.

Each unit will include a group leader, an engineer, a medical specialist, a chemical expert, a logistics person, a public safety representative and a public information officer. The teams, to be ready within 30 days, will be given authority to deploy state resources once the immediate emergency workers have completed their jobs.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Glendening said, the state has seen good and bad examples of confronting a perceived threat.

"We did go through a number of discussions about things that worked," Glendening said after yesterday's meeting, which included Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. "We also focused quite candidly on things that aren't working as well," the governor said.

As an example, Glendening referred to a recent incident on the Washington Metro system in which a passenger threatened others on the rail car with a substance that created fear of a chemical-agent attack.

Officials on the scene were later criticized for allowing the passengers to disperse and the subway line to continue operation.

The state has had some recent experience in emergency response, in particular the CSX train derailment in the city in July.

But, as yesterday's briefing indicated, the terrorism threat is beginning to burden local governments like no other recent disaster.

"There is going to be a lot of competition nationally, and we want the money to come directly to our local governments," Ruppersberger said.

The state's seven-page list of priorities includes $29 million for aviation security, including garage modifications, traffic rerouting and communications upgrades.

The request also includes $9.1 million for security at ports and $18.7 million for mass transit safety, including platform video surveillance on light rail.

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