Palm Beach County: Repay our cost of protecting Trump when he's in town
As President Donald Trump plans another trip this week to his Winter White House, Palm Beach County has a new lobbying priority — getting reimbursed for the cost of protecting him.
That expense is growing as Trump continues to return to Mar-a-Lago, his part-time residence, and protesters vow to voice their displeasure whenever he visits.
"This is about protecting a president when he visits his home," Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron said. "That's the category we are in, which is different from a typical presidential visit."
Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to ask the federal government for reimbursement as well as assistance for aviation businesses negatively affected when Trump visits.
On other topics, the county's priorities for federal help include securing more funding for mental health and substance abuse treatment, keeping heavier rigs off highways, ensuring clean water and limiting drug recovery residences known as sober homes in residential neighborhoods.
About 3,000 protesters marched through West Palm Beach during Trump's visit last weekend, and some made it within 25 yards of Mar-a-Lago, where they were met by law enforcement in riot gear.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office estimated it cost about $250,000 in overtime expenses to secure Trump's residence during the Thanksgiving holiday — before he had been sworn in as president. That visit didn't draw nearly as many protesters.
Congress recently allocated $7 million to reimburse local law enforcement for overtime hours spent protecting Trump during his transition to president. New York City alone is asking for $35 million to cover its costs in securing Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Trump plans to return to Palm Beach County Friday through Sunday this week, possibly for a round of golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The county is also seeking relief for Lantana Airport, which is less than 15 miles from Mar-a-Lago. Whenever Trump visits, that airport is shut down, and businesses based there cannot operate. Flight restrictions imposed when the president visits also ground flight training, sightseeing planes and banner-towing operations within a 30-mile ring around Mar-a-Lago.
Lantana Airport lost $30,000 in revenue during Trump's visit this past weekend, said Jonathan Miller, who runs operations there.
"It was a complete washout for us," he said.
The airport's largest tenant — a helicopter flight training school — has already ended its lease, and another flight training school is considering moving to Fort Lauderdale if flight restrictions become frequent during Trump's presidency, Miller said.
Establishing a narrow corridor that would allow planes to fly south when restrictions are in place could offer one solution, said Commissioner Dave Kerner. But that would require approval by the Secret Service.
Kerner said he is working to make the president aware of the effect to local businesses in his district.
"We are exhausting all options — including Twitter," he said.