so as you write "the S REQUIRES a belt CHANGE every 60000 miles" you should mention "but not in California, where the same belt in the same engine needs to be changed after 105,000 miles"
1997-00 2.3L V6 (Miller Cycle) T267 105,000 California
1997-00 2.3L V6 (Miller Cycle) T267 60,000 Federal
And how is it avoiding costly engine damage? It's non-interference engine, the worst that can happen is that you'll be towed.
P.S. Take it easy, you'll live longer!