New bomb squad planned for mid-Missouri

Thursday, July 3, 2008 | 6:17 p.m. CDT; updated 12:09 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — With the dismantling of the Boone County Fire Protection District’s bomb squad, four county public safety agencies have decided to form a regional bomb squad for mid-Missouri.

In a memorandum to City Council dated June 30, City Manager Bill Watkins asked for authorization to sign the Mid-Missouri Bomb Squad Memorandum of Understanding.

The bomb squad will be a multi-agency effort involving the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, the Columbia Fire Department, the Columbia Police Department and the MU Police Department . The goal is to reduce costly duplication of equipment and services while providing rapid response to all of mid-Missouri, according to Watkins’ memo.

The city of Columbia already has a bomb squad that responds to calls within the city limits. The new squad will respond to requests from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the State Emergency Management Agency, the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Fire Protection District, the former sponsoring agency of the county’s only FBI-certified bomb squad, will not be included in the new squad. The fire district board voted to terminate the bomb squad on June 18 after its FBI certification was suspended because the fire district lacked the necessary number of certified technicians, among other problems.

“Nobody has contacted us about it,” said Fire Chief Steve Paulsell. “This is the first I have heard anything about it.”

Watkins said the fire district was informed of the new squad.

“I have it on good authority that he has been spoken to, and I have personally talked to board members Dave Griggs and John Gordon a few weeks ago,” Watkins said.

“We have been in touch with the FBI and we do believe we will become FBI-certified,” Watkins said Thursday. Regardless of FBI-certification, the service is needed in the community and will be formed, Watkins said. An MU police officer will serve as the bomb squad commander. MU police Sgt. Chris Groves, who formerly served on the fire district’s bomb squad and is the only FBI-accredited bomb squad technician in the county, will likely be appointed to the position.

According to the memo, each party must ensure proper training, certification and qualification of all bomb technicians.

The City Council will vote on the resolution Monday.

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