Shuttle Recovery Costs

The instant the disaster occurred recovery expenses began. They're still growing.

There were 130 federal, state, and local government agencies. It brought 25,000 people from 44 states to East Texas. Searchers looked for debris in helicopters, boats, and walking shoulder to shoulder.

The recovery and investigation were extraordinary and expensive.

The cost to taxpayers is over $528 million.

Included are expenses filed by Nacogdoches County Auditor Clara Flores. The county's FEMA and NASA reimbursements were over $627 thousand.

The total cost is staggering even to Flores: "I did not realize that statewide and all the way into Louisiana that ever it would reach that size of money."

Unlike other government expenses, few restrictions are placed on how much money can be spent for disaster recovery.

Nevertheless, Flores found no one was frivolous with taxpayers' money.

"It wasn't so much a bottomless pit. We were very aware of the dollars being spent, but at the same time we wanted to make sure our volunteers had water, food. That there was a warm place for them, that horses were taken care of. Everything was pre approved as it occurred," said Flores.

Auditors kept close track of expenses thanks to interagency cooperation from the Texas Forest service and FEMA.

Regrettably it was more difficult to monitor all the donations. "Amazingly a lot of those early on receipts were all donated. Wal-Mart had an account for the Columbia Shuttle." According to Wal-Mart management the Nacogdoches store donated just under $30,000 in merchandise.