As President Donald Trump is set to arrive today for another long weekend at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate, the estimated costs by local agencies to protect him already are approaching $3.7 million.
Most of that, about $3.5 million, was paid by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office alone. Sheriff Ric Bradshaw remains confident that the federal government will reimburse some or all of that, although many others aren’t so sure.
“It’s still a big chunk of change. I think we’ll get it back,” Bradshaw said in a video recorded by his office.
The county also is looking into spending some of its “bed tax” revenue from outsiders’ hotel stays.
How much is $3.7 million? It would pay for more than a third of the estimated $10 million the county says it would need to buy deputy body cameras for the Sheriff’s Office.
But what about the benefits?
Palm Beach County tourism and convention groups say they had not compiled numbers on direct economic impact from the reporters, government entourages and protesters that patronize Palm Beach County hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retail outlets every time Trump is in town.
While it’s hard to measure the indirect impact of Palm Beach County datelines in media reports throughout the world, Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, told The Palm Beach Post Wednesday, “We could not afford to buy this type of media publicity. Now, we are getting it for free.”
And unlike events such as the 2000 election recount, “this is not a ‘one off,’” Smallridge said. “This is consistent, daily coverage for Florida and Palm Beach County, and we do not see it slowing down.”
Trump is set to arrive Thursday for the four-day Easter weekend, the seventh of 13 weekends he has been president. He also came as president-elect in November and December.
Bradshaw told The Post this week that costs were $1.5 million just for Trump’s stay this past Thursday through Sunday, including meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the first two days. The sheriff said about $1.35 million, 90 percent, was just in personnel. He said other expenses included security fencing around the Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa in Manalapan, where Xi stayed and which was ringed by hundreds of pro- and anti-government protesters.
Other entities have had their meters running as well.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office, which loaned deputies this past week for the Trump-Xi summit, estimated its expense at $48,000, and the Florida Highway Patrol says it has had $12,373 in costs for its help during three visits.
Palm Beach officials told the Palm Beach Daily News they’ve spent about $43,000 on the six presidential stays: $16,000 for the past three visits and $27,000 for the first three.
In West Palm Beach, police estimate they’ve spend an extra $50,000, most of it for protecting and managing protesters on the West Palm Beach side. Several times, protesters have lined the route of Trump’s motorcade from PBIA to Mar-a-Lago and also gathered at other spots, city police Sgt. David Lefont said.
WATCH: Go inside Mar-a-Lago
And in late March, West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio said Trump’s visits will require the city to add more than $4 million a year for “additional personnel to monitor possible threats” and $400,000 a year to “harden” its information technology system.
The feds, as they do with all presidents, also are paying for security details. But they won’t say how much.
The Secret Service, lead player in all things security, said in an email it doesn’t discuss any aspects of its protective activities.
The Federal Aviation Administration, Transportation Security Administration and Coast Guard all are participating. But inquiries to those agencies for dollar figures were met with directions to file a federal Freedom of Information Act request, which can mean a wait of weeks or months.
Also not talking: the Trump administration. Numerous Palm Beach Post inquiries to the White House about the cost of Trump visits have not been answered or were referred to the Secret Service. However, at his daily briefing on April 3, Trump presidential spokesman Sean Spicer did respond to a reporter by saying Trump won’t pay out of pocket for any of the expenses.
In addition to the direct costs, businesses at Lantana airport say they lose $15,000 a day when President Trump is in town. That in turn reduces the fees and rents that the county government collects from the airport, which effectively is shut down because it sits inside a 10-nautical-mile radius where private planes are banned from flying unless they first travel to a gateway airport for screening by the TSA.
TRUMP’S PALM BEACH VISITS
As president elect: Nov. 22-27 (Thanksgiving), Dec. 16-Jan. 1 (Christmas holiday).
As president: Feb. 3-5, Feb. 10-12 (with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe), Feb. 17-20 (Presidents Day weekend), March 3-5, March 17-19, April 6-9 (with Chinese President Xi Jinping), April 13-16 (Easter weekend).
Palm Beach County Sheriff: $3.5 million
West Palm Beach police: $50,000
Broward County Sheriff: $48,000
Palm Beach police: $43,000
Florida Highway Patrol: $12,373
*Expenses for Jupiter police, Secret Service, FAA, TSA, Coast Guard not immediately available.