National Memorial gets $1.6 million in funding

Tuesday, November 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The Oklahoma City National Memorial is likely to receive $1.6 million in federal funding to help with operational costs.

The money is part of the Interior Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2004 that passed the Senate 87-2 Monday evening. The bill is headed to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.

Memorial Executive Director Kari Watkins said the money likely will be used to reimburse the memorial for money paid to the National Park Service the last three years. Spending plans will have to be reviewed by the memorial's finance committee, she said.

The memorial has had to pay for six park rangers, paying $600,000 to the park service this year.

Meanwhile, attendance at the memorial's museum has dropped 22 percent since Sept. 11, 2001, creating a strain on the site's $3.3 million annual budget.

Also, private donors have begun to question why their donations were going to the federal park service, Watkins said.

Memorial trustees began consultations more than a year ago with the offices of U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Warr Acres, and U.S. Sen. Don Nickles, R-Ponca City, for federal funding.

Nickles said helping the memorial get on stable financial ground was one of his top priorities before ending his political career. The senator, who announced in October he would not run for a fifth term, said the memorial's operations needed to change to make it more financially secure.

A likely change is an end to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust, a government-owned arm of the memorial charged with overseeing day-to-day operations.

The move would allow the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation to assume full control of the landmark. The foundation raises and manages funds for the memorial.