Public safety fund discussed at Vermont Yankee meeting

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(Host) Public Safety officials traveled to Brattleboro Monday for a budget work session with towns in Vermont Yankee’s emergency evacuation zone. The purpose was to discuss how to spend $800,000 in radiological emergency planning funds included in the state’s 2004 budget. The assessment is paid by Entergy, the plant’s owner.

Much of that money is earmarked for local planning for a radiological emergency at the Vernon nuclear plant. But local officials have said they feel left out of the state planning process.

Evacuation plans for a disaster at Yankee have been sharply criticized in towns surrounding the power plant. Several have refused to approve their part of the state plan until their concerns are met. Brattleboro Town manager Jerry Remillard called for a multi – town educational campaign, so that the plans are better understood by the public. Public Safety Commissioner Kerry Sleeper says education should be a priority:

(Sleeper) “Any of us that have been involved in planning for any amount of time recognize that no plan is effective unless the people involved in the plan have a clear understanding of what it’s for who it affects and what they need to do.”

(Host) Sleeper says an information campaign might be funded by a portion of Vermont’s Homeland Security allotment. Sleeper says Vermont’s share of the federal anti-terrorism money is about $14 million. The funds are earmarked for preparations for nuclear, biological or chemical attacks.

Jim Matteau, director of the Windham Regional Commission, questioned that approach.

(Matteau) “Personally I would advocate for spending – for obtaining that money from the nuclear plant and using all of the $14 million homeland security funds for other things in the state.”

(Host) The meeting was organized by state Senator Jeanette White (D-Windham County) and Representative Patty O’Donnell (R-Vernon). O’Donnell says she’ll vote to assess Yankee for more money later this year if she sees a detailed budget reflecting more local concerns.

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