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County voices support for nuclear planning bill

MORRIS – An Illinois Senate bill is receiving official support from the Grundy County Emergency Management Agency.

The proposed measure, Senate Bill 3289, would amend the Illinois Nuclear Safety Preparedness Act, changing the compensation rates for local governments. With the amendment, local emergency agencies would be allotted more funds to complete nuclear accident plans. The bill is is sponsored by Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet.

“Obviously, counties affected by nuclear power plants want to support the bill,” Grundy County EMA Director Joe Schroeder said.

“All of the money that comes to local agencies for nuclear plans, goes through the state. We feel we are not getting what we need. This would increase that amount,” he continued.

McGuire said the bill was drafted with much input from Will County EMA Director Harold Damron, and was intended to provide more support to Illinois locales that house nuclear reactors.

“What the bill aims to do is provide more money to county EMAs for the nuclear safety services they provide,” McGuire said.

The bill had its first Senate reading in February, but McGuire said the bill is on hold, for now, while he gathers input from other EMA agencies and industry representatives.

“We realized the bill needed more work,” McGuire said. “So we’re going to take another look at the bill to see if it can be modified to win more voter support.”

Schroeder said he hopes the bill progresses as his agency could use the extra funds.

The Grundy EMA has a nuclear program and works with a Nuclear Power Plant Committee, which is devoted to nuclear safety in Grundy County. That can be a big job in Grundy, a county that houses one nuclear reactor and borders two others.

“Personnel costs, enhancing our nuclear plans– basically, we just need more support for the nuclear program,” Schroeder said. “We want to build that program, strengthen it, to keep it survivable in changing times.”

The county’s Nuclear Planning Fund is expected to have a cash balance of about $59,802 by the end of fiscal year 2014. However, the fund is supported almost entirely by state grant monies, which aren’t always reliable or consistent.

Schroeder presented a formal resolution of support for the bill at the Grundy County EMA Committee on Wednesday.

The committee approved the resolution and is set to be on the agenda at the next full county board meeting.

“It’s an effort to provide roundabout support for this, so we can push some more of that state money down to us,” Schroeder said.

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