FirstEnergy will continue with brunt of EMA funding

LISBON — FirstEnergy will continue to provide the majority of funding for the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) under a new two-year contract approved last week by county commissioners.

The new contract requires FirstEnergy to provide $216,910 for the EMA in 2018 and $237,134 in 2019. The EMA’s total budget is about $320,000 each year, according to Commissioner Tim Weigle, with the county contributing $7,683 in 2018 and $8,233 in 2019. The rest comes from the Ohio EMA.

Prior to 2015, commissioners had never provided any funding for the EMA but began doing so at the insistence of FirstEnergy after the company balked at the salary given the new EMA director at the time, which was higher than what other EMA officials made in other local counties in FirstEnergy’s service area. As a result, commissioners agreed to begin funding 2.5 percent of the EMA’s budget, although there was talk at one time of gradually increasing the county’s contribution to 10 percent.

Commissioners have since hired a new EMA director, who was brought in at a lower salary than her predecessor.

FirstEnergy operates the nuclear power plant in nearby Shippingport, Pa., and counties within 15 miles of the facility are required to have an emergency response plan in the event of an accident at the facility. This is why the company helps fund EMAs in those counties.

Weigle pointed out the FirstEnergy money is used to pay 90 percent of the salaries of the EMA director and deputy director. They also serve as 911 director and co-director, so the remaining 10 percent of their salaries comes from 911 funds.