County Executive Jack Doyle wants to use grant money designated to help fight the drug war to help fight the war on terrorism when that fight shifts to the PGA Championship at Oak Hill County Club this August.
In a May 5 referral to the County Legislature, Doyle wrote that the PGA Championship "is expected to attract approximately 45,000 spectators, competitors, media, and dignitaries from across the country. Since this is a national sporting event and can possibly be a target of terrorism, heightened security is necessary."
Doyle asked legislators to accept a $250,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Grant from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Less than half the money, $114,725, would be used to pay for security services provided at the event by the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.
This would be done despite the fact tournament organizers are willing to pay for any additional expenses the Sheriff's Office may incur while policing the event.
The rest of the money, $135,275, would be given to the PGA Tournament Corporation, Inc., "for additional and special security services in connection with the PGA Championship," Doyle wrote. The PGA would also provide $83,333 --- an amount equal to one-third of the grant --- in matching funds for the same purposes.
Doyle's effort to use the grant money for the golf tournament hit a snag shortly after his recommendation went public. The grant program --- created by Congress in 1988 and named after a New York City cop gunned down by drug dealers --- is primarily intended to help communities reduce violent, drug-related crime. Doyle's referral was submitted to the lej's Public Safety and Ways & Means committees in May, but was tabled after the state questioned Doyle's proposal.
"They gave us the information that we couldn't use the funds as we'd originally contemplated," says Chuck Turner, head of the county's law department. The issue has yet to be resolved.
However, Turner also indicates that the state is interested in providing money to prevent a terrorist attack at the tournament. "A national event always, as I understand it, draws concerns about possible disruptive or terrorist activities," he says, "and the state was looking to support the county and the PGA in sharing the cost of this."
"I don't think it's the case that there's not going to be adequate protection if we don't get these funds," Turner says. "I think it's a question of sharing that cost, because this is obviously a major economic thing for the community."
Tournament director Bob Jeffrey says security at the tournament will be adequate whether or not the grant money comes through. "We have a certain committee that we set up that goes over everything, from traffic control and parking issues to on-site security and intelligence threats," Jeffrey says. He says the committee has been working with the Sheriff's Office, the State Police, the FBI, and others to keep the event secure.
Deputy John Helfer, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office's public information officer, says he has never heard of the grant. He also says he has no idea how much additional money the Sheriff's Office may have to spend policing the tournament.
"Obviously, there's overtime and posts that the sheriff's department covers for us," Jeffrey says. Sheriffs "are going to be doing everything from traffic control to on-site security and on-site command posts," he says.
Unlike Helfer, Jeffrey is aware of the grant. He says the PGA and Oak Hill want the grant money to go toward security at the tournament because the golf association and the county club "are always looking to lower our costs and expenses."
However, Jeffrey says, "if that grant did not come through, we would obviously be presented with a bill, I'm sure, from the sheriff's department for their services, and we would obviously cover that."
Democratic County Legislator Calvin Lee says the grant money could be better spent addressing the area's drug and drug-related crime problem. "I'm under the impression that that money was allocated for drug prevention, it was allocated for inmates to alleviate some of the stress and the problems they're facing, and I think it was allocated to save the county money in the long run," Lee says. "To take that money and to put it around the golf tournament, that's not a wise decision."
Lee says he's also concerned that the county administration is raising the "fear factor of this terrorism and taking that as the principal reason why they're making all these bad decisions."
"We've got to realize how much we're overemphasizing the hype of security," Lee says. "Are we really just taking good money and throwing it at something that we project might happen, or we fear might happen at the event, that's costing us in the long run in quality-of-life issues?"