Biden visit to Iowa cost more than $15k to local taxpayers
Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -
As presidential candidates and those speaking on their behalf visit eastern Iowa, there's a burden that falls on local taxpayers.
The Secret Service asks local law enforcement agencies to assist in providing security. However, no federal dollars directly reimburse these state and local agencies for their overtime, fuel and other associated costs.
"Ultimately, it's coming from the city's budget," Dubuque police Lt. Scott Baxter said. "We don't technically get any reimbursement from the federal government."
Early estimates show Vice President Joe Biden's visit cost eastern Iowa taxpayers more than $15,000 dollars, most of which falls upon Waterloo taxpayers.
Biden started Tuesday morning in Waterloo, speaking at the United Auto Workers Local 838 Union Hall.
Waterloo police chief Dan Trelka said the department spent $12,000 on 60 officers' collective 280 hours of overtime. He said the department probably amassed between $1,000 and $2,000 in fuel costs, too. Trelka said the department tried using as many officers already on duty as possible, but, of course, the department had to continue policing the rest of the city, too.
Trelka said the federal government asks local agencies for assistance with security while reminding them of all the federal grants the agencies receive. Trelka said his department just purchased $280,000 in equipment, which a federal grant covered.
It's a strain on the budget, Trelka said, "but it's fun to watch history being made."
Black Hawk County sheriff Tony Thompson said his office was able to avoid any overtime costs through scheduling. He said 14 officers covered Biden Tuesday.
The vice president traveled from Waterloo to Independence, where he stopped at the First Street Deli.
The Independence Police Department had seven extra officers offering security, who each worked about 2.5 hours in overtime at $28 per hour. Some of those officers may opt to use the hours as comp time instead, so the police department will face no more than $490 in additional overtime costs.
Buchanan County sheriff Bill Wolfgram said his office provided six additional deputies, who each amassed about three hours of overtime. At about $30 an hour, he said, his office faces no more than $540, if none of the deputies opt to take comp time.
Wolfgram said it costs county taxpayers far more money when RAGBRAI rides through, though he added that event brings in more tourism dollars.
He also said the vice president's visit allowed his deputies to have some unique exposure to a different branch of law enforcement through the Secret Service. He said the last he remembers somebody of Biden's caliber coming to Independence was then-vice president George H. W. Bush in the late 80s.
Wolfgram said he appreciates the positive exposure such a visit brings to Independence and the other small cities in which Biden stopped.
Next, the vice president traveled to Manchester, where he stopped at Widner Drug Store.
The Manchester Police Department had four officers covering the visit, though only one of them was working on overtime. He worked no more than two hours, with $31.5 as the going rate for overtime. The department spent no more than $63 covering Biden's visit.
As for the Delaware County Sheriff's Office, sheriff John LeClere said five extra people worked a total of nine overtime hours. The OT rate is $35.325, meaning the office spent no more than $318.
Biden's third and final stop Tuesday was Dubuque, where he visited the Hy-Vee on Highway 20, spent the night and then spoke Wednesday morning at the Grand River Center.
Quantifying the exact number of local taxpayer dollars wrapped up in the vice presidential visit is a challenge, considering fuel and equipment costs that can go unaccounted for.
On top of that, there's the case of the Dubuque County Sheriff's Office. Capt. Dale Snyder there said the Secret Service asked the office to not reveal any cost or numbers associated with a presidential, vice presidential or other dignitary's visit without the Secret Service's approval.
The media point person at the Secret Service's Des Moines field office was out of the office and unavailable for comment Thursday.
Dubuque police Lt. Scott Baxter said the department is still trying to calculate its overtime costs, "but you're talking thousands of dollars."
He said the police department had 32 people covering the vice president's motorcade Tuesday, but no overtime was involved since many of the people were either already scheduled to work or volunteer auxiliary department members.
On Wednesday, 12 officers helped escort Biden from the Hotel Julien to the Grand River Center. For the same reasons as above, no overtime was involved here.
"We tried to involve as many on-duty personnel as we could. Unfortunately, we had to mandate officers to work on their days off, too," Baxter said.
Beyond just one officer on overtime as Biden departed Dubuque, the only other people paid OT with the department were members of the Tactical and Sniper Teams, which were deployed throughout the vice president's Dubuque visit. Baxter said most of their time would be either OT or comp time. He didn't have an exact dollar figure.
This was just one dignitary's visit and the election cycle is far from over.
"We anticipate a few more visits of similar magnitude, probably, so we're ready to deal with those," Baxter said, "but at the same time, it does hurt a little bit in terms of the finances and manpower and our resources. It does sting."
Among the agencies not available for comment Thursday were the Iowa State Patrol and Iowa DOT Motor Vehicle Enforcement, both of which also assisted in providing security during Biden's visit.
On the upside, local law enforcement agencies all report Biden's visit went off without incident. Many expressed appreciation at the positive exposure for the area.
"It's pretty neat to have the president or vice president visit your city," Baxter said.
Last week, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney also visited Dubuque. He, too, had local security protection.
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