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9/11 Memorial Site Slated to Cost $60 Million a Year to Operate

Two days from the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the memorial and museum that commemorates the World Trade Center is awash in criticism over the exorbitant amounts of money that will be needed to operate the facility.

The memorial includes huge reflecting pools, waterfalls and an underground museum (that still isn’t completed) and is expected to cost $700 million when it is all finished. But in addition to that whopping pricetage, the memorial is slated to cost $60 million a year to operate—an amount that dramatically dwarfs the amounts to operate other national memorials.

By comparison Gettysburg National Military Park costs $8.4 million a year to operate, the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor $3.6 million annually and Arlington National Cemetery—which has more than 14,000 graves and 4 million visitors a year—$45 million.

But the officials for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center claim they have unique security concerns because of terrorism fears. The foundation that runs the site has budgeted $12 million a year—a fifth of its annual budget—for private security. Visitors to the memorial have to pass through airport-like security and armed guards patrol the grounds.

“The fact of the matter is that this was a place that was attacked twice,” Joseph Daniels, the foundation’s president and chief executive, said to the Daily Mail.

A spokesman said it will cost $4.5 to $5 million a year to operate the two massive fountains that mark the spots where the twin towers once stood.

The museum was initially supposed to open this month to mark the anniversary, but construction stopped a year ago because of a funding dispute between the foundation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the land the memorial sits on.

The site probably won’t be fully complete until at least 2014—Daniels said it will take at least a year for the museum to open once construction resumes. Because foundation officials were expecting to use the money as a primary revenue source, the financial planning for the memorial has been thrown off course.

At the museum, visitors will see portraits of the nearly 3,000 victims, hear oral histories of the tragedy and view artifacts such as the staircase World Trade Center workers used to flee on 9/11.While the foundation and several elected officials have proposed that American taxpayers pick up one-third of the operating costs, Congress has balked. A bill proposed by Hawaii’s Senator Daniel Inouye that would have had the National Park Service contribute $20 million per year ran into opposition from Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who pointed out that the federal government had already spent $300million on the project. According to the National Park Service, $20 million is larger than the entire annual appropriation for nearly 99 per cent of the parks in its system.

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