WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge told mayors that the White House's domestic anti-terrorism plan would help shoulder the cost of protecting their cities while making them better places to live.
While offering few details, Ridge gave a broad preview of the strategy being designed by his office, parts of which were to be announced by President Bush on Thursday.
To be included in the plan and in Bush's budget being unveiled next month will be "unprecedented support" for cities to pay for police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians, Ridge told about 300 mayors gathered for the annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The conference estimates, based on a new survey of a sample of 192 cities, that the nationwide cost to cities of additional terrorism-related security will hit $2.6 billion by the end of 2002. The bill already totals over $525 million for spending on hazardous materials equipment, overtime for police and firefighters, training and other expenses, the survey found.
An earlier conference-sponsored survey had pegged the amount much lower, at $1.5 billion.
"Tightening security in the aftermath of Sept. 11 threatens to break the bank for many cities' budgets," said New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, president of the conference.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said the expenses are forcing cities to cut basic services such as health care, parks and recreation.
"We are very mindful of the need to get this money to you," Ridge said.
Ridge said the first test of his office comes Feb. 3 in New Orleans at the Super Bowl and five days later when the Olympics begin in Salt Lake City.
Ridge said "obviously there are no guarantees" but he was optimistic about safety at both events.