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City’s spending on Games is adding up

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By his second week in office, Salt Lake City Councilman Dale Lambert woke up and smelled the spending. It was a bit of a jolt.

In the effort to make the 2002 Olympics all things to all people — safe, fun, healing, dazzling — the city is spending some $4.3 million this fiscal year on Games-related events. At one time, that included a quarter-million-dollar contingency fund for unexpected costs.

With the start of the Games still a few weeks away, that contingency fund is spoken for, pending final council approval Thursday.

The newly elected Lambert, scrutinizing the city's Olympic budget, marveled at how expenses have mounted, adjustments have been adjusted and the rainy-day fund has evaporated.

"The last time we met, we had a $250,000 contingency fund, and that's gone," Lambert observed Tuesday night during city Olympic planner John Sittner's council briefing. "And you're asking for about another $300,000 . . . and that doesn't include another $70,000 for opening and closing receptions" hosted by the City Council.

"That is correct," said Sittner.

Chief Administrative Officer Rocky Fluhart chimed in. About $200,000 of the additional money was needed to staff magnetometers and security stations at Washington Square. That's where most of the contingency fund went, Fluhart said.

A week ago, Fluhart had told the council that about $150,000 was needed for added security costs, Lambert observed.

"It's been an amazing week," Fluhart said.

All month the council has been hearing briefings about the final piece of Olympic spending. The members have talked about hosting VIP receptions during the Games' opening and closing ceremonies. They've listened to Sittner's descriptions of the downtown festival, the all-day-and-most-of-the-night event surrounding the City-County Building. And they have repeatedly asked Fluhart for reassurance that the budget will cover everything.

"Are you totally confident that we won't have unexpected expenses?" council Vice Chairman Carlton Christensen asked last week.

"I'm totally confident that we will have things we haven't thought of," Fluhart replied without pausing. "We're going to have to make adjustments. It's going to be that way right up through" the Games.

Lambert is apparently feeling shaken down by the enormous spending.

"I have heard remarkable numbers," such as $300 million in federal money, given as the amount invested in these Olympics, he said. "Has any of that found its way to the city?"

Not much, Fluhart said. Most of those millions will pay for federal security workers and such things as F-16 fighter jets to patrol Utah's airspace.

As for the city's needs on the ground, the Utah Olympic Public Safety Command will supply $258,000 in security forces. Salt Lake City Corp. will provide another $200,000 for workers to staff the magnetometers and other bag checkpoints at the downtown festival.

The council is looking favorably on the security spending, but it still hasn't decided whether to allocate $70,000 for its receptions. The members hope to show Olympic visitors, especially those of a corporate persuasion, a good time.

And while not all are as outspoken as Lambert, the members are nervous about the extra costs and again put off a decision.

Yet "I think we're getting really close on this," said council Chairman Dave Buhler. "I hate to prolong the agony."

The council will agonize one more time, however. It set one more meeting for Thursday, exactly two weeks before the Olympic torch arrives at the City-County Building.

E-mail: durbani@desnews.com