With just four months to go before the U.S. Open comes to Chambers Bay Golf Course, Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor is still actively courting police agencies to provide the remaining 200 law enforcement officers he says are needed to provide security during the week-long event.
That has some County Council members worried, especially when they still don’t know how much it will cost the county.
“I am nervous that we’re getting this close and we don’t have things buttoned up,” Council Chairman Dan Roach said. “At this point I don’t know if it’s that I’m being overly concerned or if there’s an alarm bell that needs to be sounded.”
The Bonney Lake Republican is confident the security plan will be complete, it’s the final cost he’s not so sure about.
“I think they have a plan that would maybe be more costly to implement” than originally thought, Roach said.
County Executive Pat McCarthy declined to comment on the status of the plan or its cost to The News Tribune.
Commenting now would be premature because the plan isn’t complete, spokesman Hunter George said. George could not say how much the plan would cost the county.
The county has dedicated $1 million for security and other costs related to hosting the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. It expects this to be covered by a portion of revenues from the United States Golf Association, city and state contributions, and sales tax.
“This component is one of the last elements to come together,” George said of the security plan. “There are a lot of details to work out and we have time to do that.”
The County Council must approve its funding and the county budget doesn’t have room for “unexpected appropriations,” said council newcomer Derek Young.
“My main concern is that one, we need to sort out how this is going to get paid for very quickly, and two, what’s the budget impact going to be?” the Gig Harbor Democrat said.
The USGA pays for private security at the event, but the bulk of public law enforcement will come from Pierce County and Washington State Patrol.
In a phone interview last week, Pastor wouldn’t say how many officers are needed, but a Feb. 11 letter sent on his behalf said the plan calls for 450 officers each day.
The letter was emailed to small and large police agencies across the state including tribal police. It was sent as far away as the Walla Walla Sheriff’s Office.
State patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said the state plans to supply up to 200 troopers to primarily help with traffic control. But how the state will be reimbursed has yet to be finalized.
Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed that the state spend $750,000 to cover WSP involvement in the event. The expectation is sales tax revenue generated from the event will cover the expense, county officials say.
But state lawmakers have to approve that allocation. Approval may not come until the end of the legislative session in April, or later if a special session is needed.
That makes Young uneasy.
“We’re getting close and we need to have some finality here so we’re not caught unprepared,” he said.
To help limit Pierce County’s costs, Pastor asked outside agencies who send officers to help to pay for the first 40 hours of work. Anything above that, the county would reimburse up to $72 an hour, according to his letter.
He requested interested agencies respond by March 2. Pastor said the county would house officers coming from out of the area.
“There is no way that we could protect the county and provide security for the event on our own,” Pastor said last week about his request.
Other Pierce County police agencies, including Lakewood and Tacoma, included money in their budgets to cover increased security during the June 15-21 event.
Lakewood will use its police to help navigate and park 3,000 to 4,000 cars at Fort Steilacoom Park for the event. Tacoma set aside $290,000 to cover Open-related expenses, including increased patrols in the city.
Both cities received Pastor’s request for additional assistance and plan to help, as long as it pencils financially.
“Whatever we can do to help and be part of the solution here and within the scope of our resources, we’re willing to help,” said Lakewood City Manager John Caulfield. “What we don’t want to do is pull resources off of the street away from our ‘day job.’”