Who will foot the bill for more Pittsburgh Marathon security?

Organizers in talks over costs for added protection measures

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

Hours after two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last week, killing three and wounding more than 260, race officials with the Pittsburgh Marathon and law enforcement started taking a hard look at security plans for the May 5 race.

But as plans are solidified for a stepped-up security presence that will include additional police officers and extra equipment, one question looms large: Who will foot the bill for the enhanced security measures?

Historically, Three Rivers Marathon Inc., the nonprofit that operates the marathon, pays for race security, including hiring hundreds of police officers and security guards to monitor the 26.2-mile course that meanders through several city neighborhoods. This year, the organization planned to hire 350 officers from local departments, including the city, county and university police and the county sheriff's office. The organization also planned to have security guards on hand, for a total cost of around $160,000, race director Patrice Matamoros has said.

Take a five-minute trip along the Pittsburgh Marathon course

Luke Mohamed offers a runner's perspective of the 26.2-mile course for this year's Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. (Video by Steve Mellon; 4/24/2013)

But Ms. Matamoros said if the organization is forced to bear the cost of the additional police officers and equipment that are in the works in light of the attacks in Boston, it could spell the end of the Pittsburgh Marathon. Although the plan hasn't been finalized, she said she understands the cost to be "significant."

"It will basically bankrupt us," she said. If the city is unwilling to pay, "we'll drain our accounts and go away next year."

Pittsburgh Marathon

  • When:

    Sunday, May 5

  • Wheelchairs:

    6:50 a.m.

  • Runners/walkers:

    7 a.m.

Officials have been purposefully vague about what kind of additional security will be present for this year's marathon -- and how much it will cost. Mike Huss, the city's director of public safety, said there will be a noticeably larger police presence, but he declined to say how many officers. When asked who would pay for the additional security, he acknowledged there were some things "that [the marathon] won't be able to pay for."

He added, "The marathon has historically paid for all security. With this increase, it hasn't been determined yet."

Marissa Doyle, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said a news conference will be held Thursday morning to address questions about marathon security.

Ms. Matamoros is slated to meet with city officials today, and she hoped to resolve the question of who would pay for the additional security.

There have been several meetings already about marathon security involving law enforcement at every level, from city police to state police to the FBI. But Ray Demichiei, the city's deputy emergency management director, said that in conversations about security plans, the subject of cost has taken a backseat to pressing security concerns.

"If [the security enhancements] involve extra money ... that's not my concern at the moment," he said.

Ms. Matamoros believes the city should pick up the tab.

"There's an inherent responsibility that the city has just like it would do for any other activity that came to town that had an international event ... to help provide security for the people who came into town," she said.

City officials may be able to tap federal resources. In the days after the attacks on the Boston Marathon, Mr. Demichiei said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin informing municipalities that they could shift the money they receive from the department to pay for extra security for "special events," including races. Mr. Demichiei said that's being considered, but he added that it would come at the cost of other things -- like extra training for officers -- that the federal dollars might have funded.

Ms. Matamoros declined to say how much more the marathon organization could afford for security coverage. According to the organization's most recent filing with the Internal Revenue Service, it finished out its fiscal year in mid-2011 with around a half-million dollars in reserves.

Other law enforcement agencies also declined to go into detail about what kind of manpower they would provide the marathon, but some said they would send additional bodies and planned to charge the marathon for the help they provide.

County Sheriff William P. Mullen said his office has been sending deputies to help with the race for the past two years because the city couldn't provide enough officers. He said the city asked him to provide 40 deputies to help with security for this year's marathon and that about 25 had volunteered to help out the last time he checked.

The sheriff's office bills the marathon organizers each year and charges them about $60 per deputy per hour, with the exact rate varying depending on how many years the deputy has been employed.

"If they need us, we'll be glad to help them out, but they'll have to pay," Sheriff Mullen said. "Our budget cuts don't permit us to help without getting paid."

County police superintendent Charles Moffatt said his department has been asked to provide more police officers for the marathon than it has in the past. The county police also charge marathon organizers about $60 an hour per officer who helps with the marathon.

Alvin Henderson Jr., chief of county emergency services, will help coordinate efforts between the city and at least a dozen other agencies throughout the county. That could include requests for additional officers or for additional equipment.

"Because of races past, we know that there is going to be a strain on the medical side," Chief Henderson said. "You're bringing in extra personnel to help staff that. You're also bringing in additional equipment to be able to provide emergency care."

Cory Angell, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said the agency plans to send a liaison to help coordinate requests for help with the marathon and will also have someone working at a nearby operations center.

The FBI's local office is also assisting with the planning process.

Spokeswoman Kelly Kochamba declined to go into specifics but said, "We have worked with the city police on security for the marathon before. With crime changing and evolving, we have to change and evolve with it. This is somewhat par for the course, but we're just taking into consideration everything that's occurring."

mobilehome - homepage - neigh_city

Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com and on Twitter: @liznavratil. First Published April 24, 2013 4:00 AM


Create a free PG account.
Already have an account?