Ascension Parish OHSEP chosen to administer Region 2 Grant funding

Staff reports

Following a vote Thursday by the parish emergency management directors of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness’ (GOHSEP) Region 2, the Ascension Parish OHSEP was selected to begin administering federal Homeland Security grant funding to that region, according to parish officials.

Ascension’s OHSEP was selected as the fiduciary agent for Region 2 which includes the parishes of Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana.

The funding management change decision came after East Baton Rouge’s Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (MOHSEP) was removed as fiduciary agent of the Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) which consists of the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP) and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grants, according to a release from GOHSEP.

“We have a streamlined, efficient process and extremely qualified people to handle this task,” said Beth James, executive assistant to Parish President Tommy Martinez. James also heads up the parish’s grants department.

The SHSP provides funds to the state and local levels for homeland security strategies and initiatives, which also support federal initiatives, while the UASI focuses on regional preparedness in major metropolitan areas like the Capitol Region with prevention, protection, response and recovery needs, according to the release.

Funding in the amount of $4,033,033.72 from the two federal grant programs will be de-obligated from the Baton Rouge Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and obligated to the Ascension Parish departments for redistribution through GOHSEP to the EBR Sheriff’s Department.

Rick Webre, Ascension Parish OHSEP director, said the parish departments will handle the duties for at least two years while MOHSEP is on a two-year probation period.

He said Ascension Parish will get a three percent management and administration fee as fiduciary agent.

“Future grant award sheets, called the Grant Adjustment Notice, will now come to Ascension Parish,” Webre said. “The eight regional directors will convene to determine an allocation model and to modify the regional grants governance structure. The allocation model will then go back to GOHSEP then the funding will be distributed according to the model.”

Webre said once funding is secured, it will be managed by OHSEP’s Grants Coordinator Rachael Wilkinson, the Ascension Parish Grants Office and the Ascension Parish Finance Department before procurement is made.

“We’ll be consulting with all eight parish directors and getting their consensus on where we need to go and to make sure that we are taking a regional approach,” Webre said. “The funding not only gets distributed, but gets distributed in accordance with the national priorities, all of our strategies and our investment justifications.”

“This was not something that we were anticipating,” Webre said. “But we’ll get it done. We’re confident because of the grant procedures that we’ve set in the past. The objective behind this change was not to take money away from EBR. That was never the intent of the Region.”