Pope is gone - and for suburbs, so is the money

Pope Francis arrives at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary as spectators cheer Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015. (ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ/Staff Photographer)

Some towns just outside Philadelphia are still totaling overtime and expenses from the papal visit.

But they should not count on getting back that money - likely to total hundreds of thousands of dollars. At least not yet.

The World Meeting of Families will reimburse only the City of Philadelphia for costs associated with hosting Pope Francis, according to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Other affected municipalities - including Lower Merion, where the pope stayed at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, and other townships where visitors packed SEPTA stations - have to look elsewhere.

One place could be state coffers. The proposed state budget includes $5 million to reimburse counties for "costs incurred for planning, preparation, and event security" for the papal visit.

But the budget hasn't yet passed, so those funds remain unavailable as the standoff between Gov. Wolf and the Republican-controlled legislature enters a fourth month.

Philadelphia had a contract with the World Meeting - a nonprofit established for the papal visit - to cover an estimated $12 million in costs for the visit.

Officials in both Upper Darby and Lower Merion said they had asked the organization for financial relief prior to the pope's arrival - but neither had yet received a response.

Ken Gavin, the archdiocesan spokesman, said Tuesday that such reimbursements were available only for "contracted and permitted areas in the city of Philadelphia."

Robert Duncan, Lower Merion's assistant township manager, said the township was still tallying its expenses. Most came from staff overtime during the weekend. Township spokesman Tom Walsh said last week that police overtime alone was expected to top $115,000.

Upper Darby Mayor Tom Micozzie said the township scaled back its extra weekend staffing when crowds turned out to be smaller than expected at the Primos Regional Rail station and the 69th Street Transportation Center. Still, he estimated the township spent more than $175,000.

"It's not something that's going to bankrupt a town like Upper Darby," Micozzie said. "It's a fairness and equity issue here."