PALM BEACH — Standing within sight of President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago estate, U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, today called on Trump to “step up” and help Palm Beach County taxpayers recover millions of dollars in expenses associated with the president’s frequent visits here.
Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office costs have already topped $1.7 million and could total $3.3 million to $5.8 million for the year, Frankel said, while business losses could hit $1 million at the county’s Lantana Airport, which is forced to shut down when the president visits.
Frankel was joined by West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio, who 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.
Muoio also said the city needs $4.5 million worth of “specialized equipment to handle a critical incident.”
Muoio mentioned potential threats to the city’s water supply and its waterfront, but her office didn’t immediately provide details on the extra personnel or equipment the mayor says the city needs.
Of the increased IT costs, 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.”
Frankel and Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, sent a letter to Trump last 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.
Trump made extended visits to Mar-a-Lago in November and December as president-elect and has visited on five weekends since becoming president.
“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. “He has very nice secure, safe, lovely places he could be even though we live in paradise. But certainly he could save 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 budtget to pay for some of the security and costs to pay for those visits…We hope that there is an opportunity for us to work with the White House and Congress.”