The4th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, October 8, 2009, at 10:00 AM Central Time, in Greenville, KY, at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center. Representative Tanya Pullin, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Elizabeth Tori, Co-Chair; Representative Tanya Pullin, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Julie Denton, Jerry P. Rhoads, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Dwight D. Butler, Mike Cherry, Ron Crimm, Myron Dossett, David Floyd, Fred Nesler, Steven Rudy, and Ancel Smith.
Guests:† Rep. Martha Jane King, Rep. Brent Yonts, and Rep. Eddie Ballard; Gen. John W. Heltzel, Gen. Edward Tonini, Department of Military Affairs; Terry Cole, Rodney Harkleroad, Steve Montgomery, Logan County; Leamon Kendrick, Wayne Settle, Todd County; Rick Newman, County Judge-Executive, Muhlenberg County; Ed DeArmond, Mayor, Greenville; Jerry Mitchell, Mayor, Central City; Charlotte Whittaker, Donald Ford, Ohio County; Col. Mike Jones, DMA; Vicki Marin, Kentucky Division of Emergency Management; William McDaniel, Andrew Spencer, Joshua Layson, Kentucky National Guard; Tony Borders, Sharon Grove Volunteer Fire Department; John M. Grant; and Joe Burgan, LRC.
LRC Staff:† Erica Warren, CSA, Mustapha Jammeh, Tiffany Opii, Clint Newman, and Rhonda Schierer.
Chair Pullin started the meeting by welcoming special guests Rep. King, Rep. Yonts, and Rep. Ballard. Chair Pullin thanked the Kentucky National Guard for welcoming the committee to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center.
Chair Pullin and Co-Chair Tori presented Adjutant General Edward Tonini with a resolution in recognition of the National Guardís response in Western Kentucky during the 2009 ice storm and clean up. Gen. Tonini began his presentation by discussing how the GI Bill will affect the Kentucky National Guard. He stated that the post-911 bill will not significantly decrease the needs of the Kentucky National Guard Tuition Assistance Program. Gen. Tonini stated that 4,200 of the 8,388 soldiers and airmen qualify at some level for the post-911 GI Bill. Of those who qualify, only 1.6% qualify for full benefits and only 19.5% qualify at the 50% level. Gen. Tonini stated that a soldier may elect to transfer the benefits under the post-911 GI Bill to a spouse or child. He stated that only five guard members qualify at the 100% level.
Gen. Tonini stated that the Kentucky Tuition Assistance Program is marketed to pay 100% of the tuition towards a bachelorís degree to any in-state institution. It also pays up to the in-state level at approved private institutions, and tuition is paid directly to the institution. State-funded expenditures for FY 09 were just over $4.7 million. They were exhausted by the spring semester of 2009, so there was no state funding remaining for the summer programs. A federal grant to the program picked up the summer tuition dollars. He added that there is no guarantee that the federal funds will be available from year to year. Gen. Tonini stated that applications for tuition assistance are increasing due to repeating deployment cycles. Tuition is increasing and more people are applying, which presents a problem. Gen. Tonini stated that they have already allocated $3.1 million for the fall program in FY 10 which is 65% of the allocated amount. They have received 1,167 applications for the spring 2010 semester. He added that FY 10 is shaping up to have a serious shortfall in delivering their objective of 100% tuition reimbursement. Gen. Tonini stated that, out of all the military tuition assistance programs, the Kentucky National Guard Tuition Assistance Program is most beneficial to them.
Gen. Tonini gave an introduction to the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center (WHFRTC). He stated that the training center is considered a gem of a facility around the United States. The facility is the largest of three operated by the Kentucky National Guard. WHFRTC is easily accessible and is the premier mechanized infantry and maneuver training area east of the Mississippi River. The WHFRTC provides cost effective training facilities for active duty and reserve military units from every branch of the service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), State Police, and local and county law enforcement. It is also used by the Boy Scouts. The training center provides a full spectrum for live, virtual, and constructive training. The WHFRTC is also used to conduct sustained operations in support of federal and state emergencies in the western regions of the Commonwealth. It was officially dedicated in October 1997 to honor Senator Wendell Ford. Gen. Tonini added that WHFRTC is now over 11,000 acres in size and provides complete accommodations for nearly 1000 troops. He stated that the total federal investment is $43 million for construction in 14 years.† Gen. Tonini encouraged members to tour the facility by UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters after the meeting.
Chair Pullin thanked Gen. Tonini for hosting the committee at the WHFRTC and also thanked Rep. Yonts and Sen. Rhoads for hosting the committee in their district.
Rep. Floyd asked Gen. Tonini if tuition assistance included air national guard in Kentucky. Gen. Tonini stated that the federal assistance is strictly for Kentuckyís Army National Guard, but that state funds cover both Army and Air National Guard.
Chair Pullin asked for presenters from Logan and Todd County to come forward along with Rep. King and Sen. Tori. †Chair Pullin, Rep. King, and Sen. Tori presented Logan and Todd county responders with a resolution honoring them for their service to the Commonwealth during the 2009 ice storm and the clean up afterwards. Rep. King spoke on the 2009 ice storm and the amazing things that the local responders and neighbors did in that time and thanked them for their service.
Chair Pullin then asked Rep. Martha Jane King, Wayne Settle, Safety Officer for the Clifty Fire Department in Todd County, Terry Cole, Chief of the Logan County Search and Rescue, and Rodney Harkleroad, Director of Emergency Management for Logan County, to tell the committee about experiences they had during the 2009 ice storm. Terry Cole stated that it was amazing how all the emergency workers and neighbors came together as a community to do whatever necessary to help one another. He expressed his desire to figure out what they could do to better prepare themselves for another emergency situation. Mr. Cole shared a story about the Dunmore area in Muhlenberg County which had been without water for a few days. Todd and Logan County had water, so together and with the help of Tommy Nelson, a volunteer firefighter, they put together a mile and a half of water supply line to get water to the Dunmore area. Chair Pullin stated that she felt the waterline symbolized Kentuckiansí ingenuity and drive to help their neighbors.
Wayne Settle, Safety Officer with the Clifty Fire Department in Todd County stated that the fire department supports and does mutual aid to five or six fire departments around them. He stated the ice storm was devastating and that Clifty Fire Station became a command post and a feeding place. Clifty Fire Department did road clean ups, daily welfare checks, delivered lamps, heaters, and became a distribution center for kerosene for heaters. He said one of the main things they needed at the fire station was a generator. He thanked Rep. Martha Jane King for all that she did to help. He added that churches brought in hot food to prepare and take to those who could not get out. Mr. Settle stated that a new generator would be crucial to the fire department and that overall, they are struggling financially because of the outlay the volunteer fire department had during the ice storm. The overall cost for the departmentís needs to recoup and purchase a generator so that they can properly function is approximately $35,000.
Rodney Harkleroad with Logan County Emergency Response spoke briefly to the committee on the good and bad that happened during the ice storm. He stated that only the dispatch center was on a generator, and backup generators are desperately needed. Chair Pullin expressed appreciation for not only what they did during the disaster but also for the local responders bringing their stories before the committee so that they can learn what has and has not worked.
Sen. Tori asked the responders if preparedness is ongoing now to meet another disaster should it occur. Wayne Settle stated that preparedness is always ongoing and the main thing that the fire departments can do is keep their equipment up-to-date and expressed the need for generators for power. Sen. Tori asked if they are seeing improvements in their communications. Mr. Settle stated that they are better equipped and they do have better communications. Rep. King added that Todd County and Logan County sit in two different area development districts, and it separates them and creates some situations where communication and coordination are difficult. Mr. Cole stated that they need communications that will allow them to be on the same system so that they can help each other and they are working on that.
Chair Pullin called on Rep. Yonts and Sen. Rhoads and local responders from Muhlenberg County. Chair Pullin stated that they would like to express their thanks to all of the local responders in Muhlenberg County and presented them with a resolution on behalf of all the responders in gratitude for all they did during the 2009 ice storm. Rep. Yonts thanked the Kentucky National Guard for all of their assistance. Sen. Rhoads stated that there was a resolution passed on the Senate side as well recognizing the efforts of the first responders and he would get copies to everyone. He recognized Rep. Eddie Ballard for his contributions during the ice storm.
Chair Pullin called on some local responders from Ohio County and expressed appreciation and gratitude to everyone in Ohio County for their efforts during the 2009 ice storm. Sen. Rhoads asked Charlotte Whittaker, who oversaw an emergency shelter, and Donald Ford, who assisted with debris cleanup, to speak on the effects of the ice storm in Ohio County. Ms. Whittaker stated that the Southern Elementary School was set up as a shelter as it was the only place with power. Food from the other 7 schools was moved to the Southern Elementary School. †Ms. Whittaker stated that they had 350 people in the shelter and they prepared 9,000 hot meals during those days. She stated that their biggest problem was communications.† Ms. Whittaker stated that they had help from low-income home energy assistance program (LIHEAP), women, infants, children program (WIC), and the one nursing home with power did laundry for those in the shelter. Alabama Public Health assisted by sending 7 nurses and 1 environmental specialist there to keep things safe. She added that there were many needs for people ranging in age from 21 months to 98 years.
Co Chair Tori asked for the current unemployment rate in Ohio County. Ms. Whittaker stated that it is just in excess of 10% and close to 12% in Muhlenberg County.
Donald Ford, Project Coordinator for cleanup efforts in Ohio County, spoke to the committee on the cleanup efforts in the county during the ice storm and afterwards.
Chair Pullin announced that there would be an air and land tour of the WHFRTC upon adjournment and asked Col. Bullard to inform the members about the tour. Col. Bullard announced that there would be 2 black hawk helicopter tours.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned.