Olympic organizers agreed to spend nearly $48 million to get the Utah Winter Sports Park near Park City ready for the 2002 Winter Games - more than twice as much as they originally planned.
Meanwhile, in Washington Thursday, the White House publicly pledged to seek ways to fund moving Army Reserve functions off Fort Douglas to allow the Olympic Village to be built there.But White House press secretary Mike McCurry says President Clinton was still justified in his controversial line-item veto Monday of $12.5 million for that move.
Organizers fear the veto will delay the start of work on the $80 million-plus project. The apartment-style student housing will be home to some 4,000 athletes
and officials during the Olympics.
Work will go ahead as planned at the Winter Sports Park. Engineering and design work on the massive project is scheduled to begin right away, and construction should start in July 1998 and continue through November 2000.
Members of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee board of trustees even voted 17-6 Thursday to spend $633,000 more than recommended to put plastic on what will be the two highest ski jumps so both can be used for training year-round.
The final amount approved for the project also includes $19.9 million in temporary facilities, such as spectator stands, $25.1 million in ski jumps and other permanent facilities, and $1.7 million in design and engineering costs.
The total expenditure is still several million dollars less than the organizing committee once feared it would cost to ready the state's premier Olympic facility for ski jumping, bobsled and luge competitions.
It includes the construction of a new 120-meter ski jump next to the existing 90-meter jump as well as temporary stands and other facilities for the 16 days of competition there.
Planners have been trying to reduce costs ever since hearing last year that the price tag could go up as high as $54 million from the $21.6 million budgeted in 1994.
A list of items like plastic covering, which is used as a jumping surface when there's no snow, didn't make the cut. Some trustees wanted to wait until a new budget is ready next spring before adding items on the list.
But a majority supported adding the plastic covering on the 90- and 120-meter jumps to make sure both can be used for training as well as competitions, part of the promise Salt Lake City made in bidding for the Olympics.
Another surprise at Thursday's trustees meeting was their decision not to give new SLOC Chief Executive Officer Frank Joklik a vote. Joklik took over the job from Tom Welch after Welch resigned and was charged with spouse abuse.
As the manager in charge of the organizing committee's day-to-day operations, Welch did not have a vote. Joklik, who was chairman of the board of trustees before taking the new job, said he wanted to be able to vote.
The organizing committee is already contributing $28 million to the Olympic Village at the University of Utah, a project that Utahns believed had the support of the White House.
The president's press secretary said Clinton realized the Olympic consequences, but the veto criteria he followed forced him to take the action he did.
The president's three criteria were: They were not in his original budget; their construction could not begin in 1998; and they would not greatly contribute to the quality of life of U.S. troops.
McCurry insisted in response to a Deseret News question at the daily White House press briefing that those criteria forced Clinton to veto the Fort Douglas funding.
"The president had pretty carefully drawn criteria that had to be applied," McCurry said, adding he concluded that the military construction bill "was not the place . . . to accomplish" the Army Reserve's move from Fort Douglas to Camp Williams.
"There are other ways to deal with that issue. We've already been in contact with Utah officials and are working out ways in which we might be able to proceed with the project that will preserve the facilities that are necessary for the Olympics," McCurry said in a pledge of support.
However, members of Congress doubt the administration really did its homework on that and 37 other line-item vetoes in a military construction bill - and introduced legislation in the House and Senate seeking to overturn them.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also heard testimony Thursday from budget officers for the Army, Navy and Air Force that none of the 38 vetoed projects met all of the criteria Clinton says he established to choose what to veto.
Maj. Gen. Clair Gill, deputy assistant secretary of the Army, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee that the Fort Douglas project could have been "fully executed" in 1998 - meaning it did not fully meet the president's criteria. He also said that was reported beforehand to the White House.
Gill also testified that the Pentagon feels moving Army Reserve functions from Fort Douglas has military merit and had included it in long-range spending plans to occur in 2003.
"That's a little late for the Olympics in 2002," said Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah - who pointed out that it makes sense to move up a project planned anyway so that it could help the Olympics.
Bennett also said he and other Utah leaders have heard from the administration that despite what McCurry says, leaders did not realize they were line-item vetoing the Olympic Village until after they had done it.
"At this point, no one in the White House is going to admit making any mistakes," Bennett said. "But I'm willing to let them get away with that, if they help us come up with the funding."
Others may not be so forgiving. All members of the Senate Appropriations Committee - Republicans and Democrats - blasted Thursday what they said was poor homework by the president on the vetoes, especially because budget officers say none of them fully met his announced criteria.
"I can't understand the logic, if there was any," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, adding that the vetoes were "arbitrary and capricious."
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., complained, "Not one of these projects should have been vetoed under the president's own criteria," and he called again for repeal of the line-item veto authority, which he has long opposed.
Bennett said he was almost ready to agree - but said the main problem is not the line-item veto but how Clinton is using it.
He complained that Utahns worked closely with the administration on the Fort Douglas move, "and not once was there any hint of any objection" - until Clinton vetoed it.
"We had no warning," Bennett said, adding the president should use his power to negotiate about what he dislikes in bills to change them up front, instead of waiting until after passage.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, introduced a bill Thursday calling for overturning the line-item vetoes (which Bennett co-sponsored), and Rep. Joe Skeen, R-N.M., introduced one in the House (co-sponsored by Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah).
Congress can send the list of vetoes back to the president for reconsideration with a simple majority vote. If he vetoes them again, it would take a two-thirds vote to override them.
The Utah delegation is exploring other options in case the override attempt fails, including attaching funding to other bills.
Cook said, "I met with Speaker (Newt) Gingrich yesterday to discuss possible options. I also discussed the problem with Transportation Secretary (Rodney) Slater at breakfast this morning."
He added, "We are all doing everything we can to find a solution."