It’s like a perverse lottery. Due to their chance proximity to a heavily armed religious compound, the people of Waco must deal with slurs — you know, “Wacko” — inconveniences, and stretched-thin emergency services.

For inconvenience, consider the farmers who just happen to live next to the compound and now can’t tend to their fields. Many innocent people are encumbered by this episode.

But if things aren’t managed properly by the federal government, the victimization of Waco and McLennan County could be even more severe. It could come out of local taxpayers’ pockets.

Let’s hope not. This is a national matter including investigations in several states. This standoff just as easily could have happened in La Verne, Calif., where Vernon Howell resided for a time until moving back to Texas.

The siege has cost about $1 million thus far, according to estimates by the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Cost overruns seem to be a forte of the federal government, however, so expect it to be higher.

Cost cannot be the overriding consideration at the moment. The goal should be to end this crisis peacefully, without any more bloodshed. Some people inside the Mount Carmel compound obviously were intent on reaping the whirlwind. Some are innocent hostages.

Though cost cannot be McLennan County’s concern at the moment, the people of Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, are warning those here to stay on top of the issue of who picks up the tab. Boundary County, Idaho, found itself the scene of a similar 11-day siege last summer.

Boundary County asserts that the federal government has $51,527 in outstanding bills from the episode, including money owed to local businesses for food and lodging.

Fiscally, what has happened with the Branch Davidians should not be McLennan County’s cross to bear. Congressman Chet Edwards and Sens. Phil Gram and Bob Krueger should stay on top of this issue to make sure that local taxpayers or businesses don’t get stuck with the bill for this sad turn of events simply because they happened to be in the neighborhood.

Communities get assistance in dealing with natural disasters. McLennan County should not be left to pick up the tab for the eruption of Mount Carmel.

Selfless officers

Many times in the last few days we’ve heard area law enforcement officers speak of a “brotherhood” that binds them in times of crisis, and is manifesting itself in monitoring events near Mount Carmel

Officers from throughout Central Texas have volunteered to man checkpoints, relieve other professionals on shifts, and do whatever they can to preserve the peace.

These people deserve credit and thanks, because desperate and armed individuals could pose a threat to the community in trying to escape federal agents. And, of course, by being on the scene these officers put their lives on the line, as did the agents wounded and killed in the Feb. 28 shoot-out.

Many of these officers have come to the site knowing there will be no reimbursement for their service save a cup of coffee. It’s been good to see local citizens doing what they can to keep the officers comfortable and fed.

The fact is that many of these officers have their own jobs to which they also must tend, not to mention their families. Once again this incident illustrates the commitment, courage and sacrifice of officers who step forward to protect the public.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part Two appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

Read the accounts of April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.