Health workers to get protective equipment

Specialists available for biohazard cases

February 08, 2002|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County commissioners agreed yesterday to buy protective equipment for a handful of public health workers who would be called upon to handle biological threats, such as anthrax.

Six disease-control specialists who work with the county Health Department are on call and will be equipped soon with suits and hoods. They will have the gear with them at all times in case of an emergency.

"If there is ever a bioterrorism issue, the police would call the Health Department, who would in turn call someone trained in biohazards," said county budget director Steve Powell, who oversees Carroll's risk-management efforts. "These specialists would arrive on the scene with police, and they would be trained in the rules of evidence."

Carroll County had an anthrax scare in October, when a county employee felt a white, gritty powder on her fingers after opening an envelope that contained a water bill payment but had no return address. Emergency workers followed FBI guidelines for dealing with suspected bioterrorism and determined it was a false alarm.

Powell told the commissioners he hopes to recoup the $10,000 cost of the equipment through federal grants. After the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, homeland security has become a top priority, he said.

"There's a lot of money out there to help us," Powell told the commissioners. "We may as well get in there and get what we can."

In addition, Powell recommended -- and the commissioners approved -- spending $27,000 to improve surveillance at the circuit courthouse. Under Powell's proposal, security cameras would be upgraded from analog to digital to provide a clearer picture.

"The digital mode will allow us to freeze-frame with a clear picture," Powell said. "We'll also be able to zoom in and look at pictures in more detail."

Powell is working on a detailed analysis of the county's security needs. He said he hopes to present his findings to the board in coming months.

In other action yesterday, Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier took the first step to permanently preserve two farms in Keymar. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge did not attend the board's meetings yesterday.

The farms would be preserved through the state's Rural Legacy program, which provides money to help counties purchase easements on farmland to save it from development. The commissioners executed options yesterday for the purchase of easements on 96 acres on Johnsville Road and 133 acres off Middleburg Road. The commissioners have 120 days to exercise the options.

The Johnsville Road property is owned by Marlin and Martha Hege, who have agreed to sell conservation easements to the county for $235,562. The Middleburg Road property is owned by Jerry Lee and Barbara Watt, who have agreed to sell conservation easements to the county for $318,000.

Carroll has been a leader nationally in land preservation and has about 37,000 acres in perpetual programs, more than one-third of its long-term goal of 100,000 acres.

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