BUFFALO NEWS

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Federal money is scarce for local anti-terror fight
By DOUGLAS TURNER
News Washington Bureau Chief
12/27/2002

WASHINGTON - Just days after two hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center, Capt. Thomas Flaherty of Grand Island found himself sorting through rubble from the twin towers by day, and sleeping on a gym floor at a Navy depot by night.

Flaherty and 200 other sheriff's deputies from around the state were summoned to help New York City recover from the most devastating foreign attack on U.S. soil in history.

Stirred by images of suffering and devastation and by President Bush's call for patriotism during an appearance at ground zero, Flaherty didn't have to be asked twice.

Armed with picks, he and 14 others from Erie County probed the wreckage being taken by barge to a Staten Island landfill for clues, identification, and - following the lead of cadaver dogs - body parts of the 3,000 people killed.

But despite Bush's heralded appearance at ground zero 15 months ago, and despite promises he made last spring during the congressional campaign, the president has delayed two big programs that would help local police, fire and rescue workers prepare for the next attack.

Worse, critics say, the White House has announced plans to cut back on existing programs to fund extra police and firefighters, even as localities struggle with bills stemming from the attacks.

For instance:

As Flaherty performed his mournful rites at Staten Island, Buffalo Fire Commissioner Calvin G. Worthy's men and women were answering hundreds of anthrax scare calls. This was part of a $465,000 tab the city ran up in the post-9/11 months.

Lawrence M. Meckler, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority executive director, put on extra security personnel at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. This and other protective moves led to $843,000 in unreimbursed costs to the NFTA that were directly linked to actions it took after the terrorist attacks.

County Budget Director Joseph Passafiume said Erie County's bills top $400,000.

All told, local agencies are stuck for nearly $2 million in the nation's war on terrorism.

It's the same story across upstate New York and the country. New York City claims it has $750 million in unreimbursed expenses - unwieldy ballast in the city's and the state's budget plans.

News Washington Bureau assistant Diana C. Moore contributed to this report.