Extra costs for safety at Pittsburgh Marathon won't hamper organizers

| Thursday, April 25, 2013, 11:24 a.m.

Hiring extra police and sending more bomb dogs to protect the Pittsburgh marathon won't bankrupt the city or the nonprofit that runs the race, officials insisted on Thursday.

“We're going to figure it out and partner like we always have to make this a wonderful event,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said during a rare public appearance to discuss increased security at the May 5 event in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.

Ravenstahl, public safety officials and race organizers outlined new precautions that an estimated 100,000 runners and spectators will encounter during the race, but declined to provide many details and wouldn't discuss the cost — or who will pay for it.

“We'll figure out the financing later,” Public Safety Director Mike Huss said.

He said the city will pursue reimbursement, possibly from the federal government, and that officials haven't ruled out seeking help from the National Guard.

City Controller Michael Lamb said he expects the city to at least temporarily cover whatever increased costs the extra security brings, and that's OK.

“We have an event that's (next) week. We need to make plans for that and do what we have to do to keep people safe,” said Lamb, the city's chief financial watchdog, who was not involved in the news conference or discussions about costs.

“We want people to come in for this,” he said. “It's important for us from a community and economic standpoint.”

The marathon said it generated an estimated $8.4 million in spending in the region last year, according to figures from VisitPittsburgh.

Both the city and marathon appear to have the money to cover the costs.

Finance Director Scott Kunka told City Council this week that the city had an estimated $15 million budget surplus from 2012.

Race director Patrice Matamoros called Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon Inc. a “financially stable nonprofit organization” and said organizers were trying to find a “balance of financial support” to cover event costs.

Organizers did not answer questions after the news conference about the marathon's finances. The most recent tax forms available for the nonprofit show that in 2010 it collected more than $1.5 million from race registrations and $900,000 in contributions and grants, and had $500,000 left over.

The 27,000 runners in this year's race paid between $65 and $120 each, depending on which race they're in and when they signed up.

Before the April 15 bombings in Boston that killed three people and injured more than 250, organizers said they expected to pay $160,000 to hire about 500 police officers from the city and other agencies, plus private guards, for race weekend, which includes a 5K race and kids' run on May 4.

Huss and Matamoros said more officers, private guards and bomb-sniffing dogs will be on hand — securing the route, directing traffic and searching bags — but would not estimate how many.

“There will be some very visible security things you'll see,” said Huss, who said the plan is changing day by day. “And there will be many invisible security things in place that you will not see.”

City police canceled regularly scheduled days off for all officers, Acting Assistant Chief Tom Stangrecki said. He could not describe how the city will compensate officers or how much that will cost.

Acting EMS Chief Mark Bocian said the marathon always has 26 extra ambulances from around the region and volunteer doctors from UPMC.

“We'll have additional medical assets that we won't discuss,” said Bocian, who noted he has had daily conversations with counterparts in Boston since the bombings.

About 35 Pittsburgh paramedics wearing Boston EMS hats will work the marathon but collect no pay for it, said Anthony Weinmann, president of their union. Money the marathon would have paid the city for them instead will go to One Fund Boston, a charity established for victims of the bombings.

Medical tents will have more tourniquets than usual, a lesson from Boston where people with traumatic injuries to arms and legs were treated.

Officials also will look at moving trash cans and newspaper boxes from the race routes.

Staff writer Bob Bauder contributed to this report.

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