An apparent mix-up has left the final $12.7 million in federal money needed to cover security costs for the 2002 Winter Games off Congress' budget next year.
And while Games organizers are confident the misunderstanding can be fixed, they've sent some of Utah's Olympic heavy hitters to Washington to make sure the last chunk of money they've been counting on for the past several months doesn't slip away.
Utah Olympic Public Safety Command Chairman Robert Flowers just returned from a two-day trip to Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney is in the nation's capital Monday and Tuesday. While there, Romney plans to meet with Utah's five-member delegation, FBI Director Robert Mueller and the chairman of the commerce justice and state appropriations subcommittee.
While President Bush and the U.S. Senate both earmarked Utah's $12.7 million Olympic security funds in their respective budgets, the item was left off the House's version of the 2002 budget.
SLOC officials say they believe the money was excluded because House members confused that request with a separate $12.3 million appropriation for the FBI to cover Olympic-related costs.
"Usually you hear people say we did not fund you because we have some concerns over XYZ," said Cindy Gillespie, vice president of federal relations for SLOC. "So far we have not heard that."
More than half of the $12.7 million the public safety command needs to round out its roughly $30 million budget would cover overtime costs for police departments who send officers to work the Games, Romney said. The remainder would cover training and outdoor gear for security personnel.
"Part of my going out there was to let them know that we are an open book," Flowers said. "Anything they want to see, I will bring it to them so they'll know there's no fat here. Muscle and bone that's all we are."
The Senate's appropriations bill is expected to go to the floor Monday, Gillespie said.
Both houses of Congress are expected to meet sometime in October to hammer out the differences in their budgets. Romney said he worries that if the two sides meet in the middle, the safety command could lose a large chunk of money and be forced to retool its security plans.
"Sometimes in compromise people split the difference," Romney said. "That would be a problem. That's like, 'Give us half an officer on that street corner.' "
Romney says he's confident that once he explains the need for the money and what it's being used for, the House will agree to fund the $12.7 million."This is one last piece of the public-safety puzzle," Romney said. "You can't have the complete chain if you take out a couple of links."