City, nearby counties plan to form regional urban search, rescue team


Baltimore and surrounding counties plan to form a regional urban search-and-rescue team with a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The city's Board of Estimates is expected to vote today to accept the grant money, to be shared by the city and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

"These grant dollars will allow us to access enhanced training and equipment and also further cooperation with our regional partners," said Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Mayor Martin O'Malley.

The money will be used to set up the team, which will include private-sector experts such as structural engineers in addition to traditional emergency responders such as police and firefighters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has traditionally maintained similar teams, one of them in Montgomery County, to respond to disasters around the country. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the agency has encouraged local jurisdictions to create teams of their own, city officials said.

The board will take up two other items related to terrorism and emergency preparedness. It will consider hiring The Uriah Group Inc. for $50,000 to simulate a light rail "incident" at Camden Yards on baseball's Opening Day. The exercise is intended to demonstrate how the city and nearby businesses should respond to such a crisis.

The other item calls for paying $26,000 for videos - developed by J.M. Dunn Astigmatism Media and the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems Educational Support Services - that show how to set up and manage emergency health clinics.

Also today, the board will consider approving a $75,000 severance payment to former police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark.

O'Malley fired Clark in November, saying that domestic abuse allegations against the commissioner, while unproven, had undermined his ability to lead the department.

The $75,000 severance payment is what city officials contend Clark was entitled to under the terms of his employment contract.

Clark is seeking $120 million in damages from the city in a lawsuit that contends his firing was illegal. The $75,000 payment does not change the status of the lawsuit, said Stuart O. Simms, an attorney for Clark.

"Nothing official has occurred," Simms said.

The board also will consider selling a small, triangular-shaped lot near Camden Yards to developers who plan to build a 126-room, limited-service hotel.

The city would sell the land, at the northeast corner of Washington Boulevard and Greene Street, for $609,000 to Camden Square LLC, an entity created by Robert Meeks, an associate broker for Next Realty Mid-Atlantic LLC of Alexandria, Va., and Duane Taylor, a Baltimore developer.

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