[StBernard] Parish's emergency director is Marine

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sat Mar 10 10:49:02 EST 2007

With hurricane season less than three months away, St. Bernard Parish now
has a new man handling its emergency preparedness.
Parish President Henry "Junior" Rodriguez will continue to hold the formal
title of director for homeland security and emergency preparedness, but
recently-hired Marine Reserve Lt. Col. David Dysart will manage the
day-to-day responsibilities of the office. Dysart's annual salary will be
$65,000, officials said.
Rodriguez had assumed the job title last fall while the Parish Council
discussed eliminating financing for the department in adopting the parish's
2007 operating budget. Former director Larry Ingargiola left his
$42,500-per-year job with parish government after money for his department
was eliminated.

This marks a second stint in parish government for Dysart. He initially was
hired in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to head recovery efforts in St.
Bernard because he had helped lead the rebuilding of Fallujah, Iraq. He left
that post as director of recovery last fall.
With the addition of Dysart and an ongoing study by the St. Charles Parish
emergency preparedness director to examine the possibility of a siren and
low-powered AM station warning system for emergencies, officials said the
parish should be better prepared for this hurricane season than it was for
last year's.
"I would suspect that within 60 days, a fully operational emergency plan
would be shared with the council," said Councilman Craig Taffaro, who led
the fight last year to slash the budget, but has authored the budget
amendment to finance Dysart's salary and some expenses. "That includes a
response plan that includes rescue assets; that includes verifying that the
communication system works. I don't mean, 'Oh, we threw something on paper.'
I mean in 60 days, we are prepared for a storm to come."
Rodriguez had argued with the council over its decision to eliminate the
department's money, saying state law required an office be financed in every
parish. He then told the council he would assume the duties of director, but
Friday he said he hired Dysart after learning the parish was on the verge of
losing more than $1 million in homeland security grants because the money
hadn't been spent in a timely manner.
Parish Council members said their elimination of funding for the department
in the 2007 budget stemmed from concerns about spending under Ingargiola.
That included some hurricane-recovery-related contracts Ingargiola entered
for which the parish has initially been denied millions in reimbursement by
the federal government.
Council members also said they were disappointed the emergency preparedness
grants hadn't yet been used to buy boats or life jackets. St. Bernard Parish
suffered massive flooding during Hurricane Katrina.
The proposed budget amendment is for about $74,000. Parish Chief
Administrative Officer Dave Peralta said that amount includes Dysart's
salary and benefits of $65,000 for the remaining nine months of the year and
an initial amount of $10,000 in operating expenses. Dysart's salary was
$65,000 when he left parish government last fall.
Rodriguez also said he hired Tab Troxler, the long-time emergency
preparedness director for St. Charles Parish, to conduct a study of the
parish to determine the feasibility of a siren and public announcement
system, as well as a low-power AM radio station that could be used to notify
residents in cases of weather or industrial emergencies.
The study and warning systems would be financed with homeland security
grants, and, if implemented, are expected to be in place by mid-June.

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