OC Looking To Beef Up Security System

OCEAN CITY –It seems that the town’s security system will be tightened with similar tenacity to that of the town’s proverbial spending belt.  Better yet, the heightened security won’t mean a diminished general fund.

The City Council unanimously approved to bid out the cost of a City-wide Security Access Control System, which includes a new technologically updated and secure identification “swipe” card system for town personnel, after a presentation earlier in the meeting announcing the town’s $400,000 Homeland Security Grant.

Grants Coordinator Wayne Pryor said the Homeland Security Grant that is allotted by the federal government to the state of Maryland and then amongst the 26 management districts throughout the state, including Ocean City, would pay for the security access control system.

Captain Kevin Kirstein of the Ocean City Police Department has been researching and planning this upgrade in security for the town of Ocean City for several months and said that it would more than likely be done in three phases.

“The first phase will be to issue the swipe cards to town personnel and others that need them and secure our airport, our public safety building, and City Hall.  Future phases will see us doing similar things to the fire department, beach patrol, and the fire marshal,” said Kirstein.

The state of Maryland got roughly $18 million in Homeland Security money, slightly more than that of Massachusetts ($16 million), and slightly less than that of Virginia ($21 million), and, according to Pryor, the money allotted is based on the application that each state must submit each year.

“It fluctuates based on the applications.  They factor in population and critical infrastructures that could be targeted for terrorist attacks.  The state then hands out the money to the 26 management districts, and though Ocean City will never be in the realm of Baltimore County or PG [Prince George’s] County, we are on the higher end of funding on the Eastern Shore because of what we are as a resort town,” he said.

The numbers easily translate Pryor’s explanation of how the applications are ranked as California ($110 million), New York ($76.5 million) and Texas ($65.4 million) received the most money from the federal government in FY 2008.

Pryor said that once the bidding process is complete, a better idea of how much they will be able to get done in the first phase would be clearer.

In addition, Pryor said that the grant money, which has exceeded $3.3 million over the past five years, has been used to fund such things as surveillance cameras, added security at the 65th Street police station, back-up generators, an advanced finger print system and a bomb squad, which Pryor called “one of the most well equipped in the state.”

This year, the grant must earmark 25 percent of the funding for use to enhance law enforcement and another 25 percent must be used for preparedness training and enhanced deterrence against Improvised Explosive Devices or IED’s.

Pryor said that the biggest challenge this year would be to enhance the communication abilities used in law enforcement.

“When something hits the fan, we need to be able to talk to one another,” said Pryor.

Pryor said that despite the change in the guard in the White House, he’s already received word that similar funding will be available for FY09 and in his opinion for FY10.

“I’ve been reading the emails coming from the new administration and they are going to at least match the funding from last year for ’09 and may even increase it,” he said.

Applications for FY2009 are due in March and Pryor assured the council that an Ocean City would be in place once again to use the grant money to continue to secure the town and keep the resort safe.