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City Seeks Funds to Boost Security

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

August 18 -- In the wake of news last week that three men were observed videotaping the Pier in a suspicious manner, City officials are looking for ways to pay for the estimated $2 million it will take to make Santa Monica more secure against a terrorist attack.

While officials with the FBI have said the incident is under investigation and there is no evidence linking the men to any terrorist activities, City officials said Tuesday they plan to move forward with improved security measures for police, including a $1.5 million security camera system to watch the Pier and Third Street Promenade.

"From those initial conversations with the FBI, what was determined is that there is now an opportunity to move on security issues," said Judy Rambeau, the City's spokesperson. "Rather than wait, it's better to take precautionary steps now."

City officials are looking into grants and other funding, but in the short term the City will have to pay for the increased security out of pocket, Rambeau said.

"We're looking for additional areas in the budget to pay for this," she said.

Although it appears no funding cuts will be made to City services or programs to recover the cost, City officials said it is too early to say for sure.

"Luckily, (the City) has reserves available built in in case of an emergency," Rambeau said, referring to a 10 percent reserve in the $207 million general fund budget for such an emergency.

Meanwhile, City officials are beginning the to look for additional County, State and Federal funds to replenish the City coffers, Rambeau said.

"We've just begun looking at different funding options, but that's more long term," she said. "It's too early to tell what grant money would be available. People from different departments are looking into ways to get additional funding."

City staff from several departments -- including Human Resources, the City Manager's office, Fire, Police and Open Space and Recreation -- are working to identify possible grant money, but it is unclear how much money, if any, the City will receive, Rambeau said.

Since the terrorist attacks on the East Coast four years ago, the City of Santa Monica has received approximately $3.9 million in security funding from state and federal entities -- including $1.7 million from the Department of Homeland Security and $2.2 million approved, but not yet received, under an Urban Area Security Initiative grant, according to Steve Stark, the City's finance director.

The bulk of that money -- nearly $3.4 million -- has gone to Santa Monica's Fire Department for such things as hazardous materials equipment, training, new radios and a fire station alert system to better coordinate responses at a regional level, Stark said.

Police have received approximately $340,000, including $135,000 for shatter-proof glass on buildings, $44,000 for a police vehicle tracking system, $74,000 for an alert system and $86,000 for disaster training, Stark said.

The majority of the $2 million dollars that City officials will spend on the pier and Downtown on security -- including bomb sniffing dogs and security cameras -- will go directly to police, City officials said.

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