Local law enforcement, emergency services estimate Obama’s visit cost them more than $60K; mayor says worth every penny

With the added security, visitors and spectacle of President Barack Obama’s visit to Lawrence last month, local law enforcement departments and emergency services racked up a few bills, officials said.

Obama stayed overnight in Lawrence Jan. 21, and on Jan. 22 he toured a local preschool, met with members of Kansas University’s basketball team and delivered a speech at KU’s Anschutz Sports Pavilion about initiatives set forth in his State of the Union address. Over his less than 24-hour visit, local law enforcement and emergency services were on hand to assist the Secret Service with protection, at a cost of about $62,250.

At about $172,000, public safety services during the KU men’s basketball 2012 Final Four appearance cost the city almost three times what hosting the nation’s president did, city spokeswoman Megan Gilliland said.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spent about $3,650 in overtime pay to provide security during Obama’s visit, sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Steve Lewis said. Most of the staff used were already scheduled to work, so their costs were not factored in, Lewis said.

In total, 28 sheriff’s deputies were involved with “providing some type of security” during the event, Lewis said.

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical spent more than $6,800 for personnel overtime during Obama’s Lawrence stay, Gilliland said. Exempt staff was also used as part of the event, but the city did not incur additional costs for salaried employees.

The city will bill KU for the fire department’s costs because they were for fire, EMT and paramedic services for a “special event at university facilities,” Gilliland said.

With an estimated expenditure of about $51,800, Gilliland said, the Lawrence Police Department reported the highest cost of the emergency agencies.

However, the police calculated costs differently from other agencies, Gilliland said. While the sheriff and fire department only reported nonexempt staff’s overtime in the cost report, the police department also included vehicle costs, equipment, food, “other related items” and exempt personnel time in its calculations, Gilliland said.

Including exempt and nonexempt employees, the LPD logged 861 hours of personnel time, Gilliland said. Police officers were reassigned from their regular duties, such as patrolling the city, to provide security and support during the visit.

“(The police department) calculated their event costs based on whether or not staff were able to participate in already programmed police duties (such as patrol) or were utilized specifically for an event,” Gilliland said.

For Mayor Mike Amyx, the opportunity to host the president was worth the added expenditures.

“It is an incredible honor for a community to host a sitting president,” Amyx said. “The excitement and interest surrounding his visit was incredible. Our community and residents of all ages were engaged in conversations about our economy, our future and the struggles we face on a daily basis.”

Outside law enforcement agencies participated in the presidential motorcade, but Gilliland said the city did not pay for the out-of-town officers.

KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson said that the university is “still waiting on invoices” to determine how much the president’s visit cost the school. She said she was unable to give an estimate without the invoices.