Standing within sight of President Donald Trump’s weekend White House at Mar-a-Lago, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, urged Trump Monday to “step up” and help Palm Beach County taxpayers recover as much as $5.8 million in expenses associated with the president’s frequent visits here.
Frankel was joined by West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, who said cyberattacks and other threats related to Trump’s visits will require $4.7 million in new annual spending by her city as well as $4.3 million worth of “specialized equipment to handle a critical incident.”
The nearly $15 million in local costs comes on top of the estimated $2 million to $3 million in federal expenditures every weekend Trump visits Mar-a-Lago. Trump has visited Palm Beach on five of the 10 weekends of his presidency. He’s expected to return next week with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which Frankel said will cost county taxpayers another $280,000.
The sheriff’s office has already racked up about $1.7 million in costs for helping the Secret Service provide security for Trump and the total could range from $3.3 million to $5.8 million for the year, Frankel said. She and Muoio held a news conference on Bingham Island, a spot just west of Mar-a-Lago along Southern Boulevard where Trump supporters and opponents often gather when the president is in town.
Frankel also said business losses could hit $1 million at the county’s Lantana Airport, which is forced to shut down because of flight restrictions when the president visits.
Frankel said it’s “not likely” that federal money can be secured to offset those losses. A spokeswoman for Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Rubio’s office has contacted the Federal Aviation Administration and Secret Service about “accommodations” for businesses hurt by the flight restrictions.
Rubio, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. House members from Palm Beach County asked the federal government in December for help defraying local Trump-related costs.
While the county’s concerns have been raised in the past, Monday was the first time Muoio has outlined the massive spending increases she says are needed in West Palm Beach. She said the city has faced “increased threats, particularly to our IT systems” and also mentioned potential threats to the city’s waterfront and water supply.
Muoio wants $4.3 million a year to hire about 40 emergency response personnel in the police and fire departments, city spokeswoman Kathleen Walter said afterward. The mayor also said $400,000 a year is needed to “harden” the city’s information technology system.
Asked about the increased information technology costs and how it relates to Trump, Muoio said, “I can’t go into it too deeply but we’ve been working with the FBI on attempted hacks…I think because we are in the spotlight and because people think of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach when they think of the president, it brings more attention to us.”
The city would not reveal details of the $4.3 million in “specialized equipment” that Muoio says is needed, with Walter citing an exemption in Florida’s public records law that covers a “security system plan.”
Frankel and Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, sent a letter to Trump this past week asking for his help securing federal money.
“If compensation is not assured of being forthcoming, we respectfully ask that you curtail your visits until such time as that matter is resolved favorably to our area,” the letter says.
“It would be very unfair if help doesn’t come from Washington and if help doesn’t come from this president because the president can make choices,” Frankel said Monday. “He has very nice secure, safe, lovely places he could be even though we live in paradise. But certainly he could stay at the White House – he could go to Camp David, he can make that choice to limit the expense on our area…This is really a request to the White House to say, listen, step up to the plate and help us get this money.”
Assistant Palm Beach County Administrator Todd Bonlarron also attended the news conference and tried to strike a balance between welcoming Trump and seeking federal money.
“It has real impacts to our county’s budget. The other side of it, too, is we see some real economic benefits as well,” Bonlarron said. “So we do enjoy when the president is here. We like that he’s made this the winter White House. We think it’s a great selection, Palm Beach County, and we encourage more people to keep coming out, heads in beds, people in restaurants. But those dollars don’t always equate to dollars that are coming to the county budget to pay for some of the security and costs to pay for those visits.”