Benton County Emergency Services can expect to lose about $131,000 in federal money when the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program in Umatilla ends in November.
The financial hit will affect staffing and operations at the emergency center next year, but could be minimized by reorganizing operations, said Tony Corsi, the former Richland police chief who still oversees emergency services.
Corsi told the board Wednesday about several options involving reorganization and program changes that could save up to almost $122,000 and bring the deficit down to less than $10,000.
Umatilla's Chemical Depot is expected to destroy the last of the stored mustard agent by November, which will be the end of federal money coming into Benton County Emergency Services.
The federal government has provided millions of dollars to emergency services for more than a decade for equipment, supplies, building costs and up to 5.5 full-time equivalent positions at Benton County's 911 communications center in Richland.
Some of that money was specifically for the emergency preparedness program. But a portion of the federal money also went to operations, which is why emergency services faces a financial shortfall.
At the least, the 5.5 emergency preparedness program staff will go, Corsi said.
Other staff also could be cut. It depends on if BCES continues to provide services for the Columbia Generating Station and the Department of Energy's operations at Hanford.
Currently, Benton County Emergency Services receives about $710,000 for its operations budget, which does not include the federal portion for the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program.
Almost $500,000 of that operations budget comes as grants from DOE, Homeland Security and the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant to pay for emergency planning.
If the BCES board decides to stop providing emergency planning for DOE and Columbia Generating Station, more staff cuts would be needed.
One option is to retain the DOE and Columbia Generating Station grants and retain the current staff of 5.1 positions at a cost of $531,932. Nearly $442,000 would come from the grants, Corsi said.
The two alternatives Corsi offered call for a reduced staff and combining positions to do the work required for DOE and Columbia Generating Station. The net savings to the county and participating cities in BCES would amount to just under $11,000 with either scenario, Corsi said.
But the savings for offsetting the loss of federal CSEPP money would be $122,000.
Without a reorganization plan to force the savings, Corsi said the cities, county and Southeast Communications Center would have to provide some $91,000. The balance would be taken from the DOE and Columbia Generating Station grants.
Wednesday's board meeting was the third in a year to discuss closing out the CSEPP plan. The board still has to have a budget workshop before making a decision, probably in late September, about what reorganization plan to use, Corsi said.
"The big question is how to fill the gap," Corsi said.
Once the last chemical burn is done at the depot, there will be six months to close out the facility.
Whatever decision the emergency services board makes, everything could change in January 2013, which is when the cities' and county's contract that has Richland's Police Department overseeing operations expires.
Richland Fire Chief Grant Baynes has proposed his department take over administration of Benton County Emergency Services.
But Corsi said it could be another public agency, a private administrator, or BCES could become an independent agency by itself.