Some costs of president's visit have been paid

September 24, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

HEDGESVILLE, W.VA. - More than a month after President Bush held a re-election rally on Hedgesville High School's football field, costs associated with damages to the field have not been paid.

Jaimee Borger, spokeswoman for Berkeley County Schools, said three separate invoices were sent to re-election campaign officials after the president visited on Aug. 17.

Two of the three bills have been paid, she said.

Republican National Committee officials have paid the $2,000 it cost to use the high school's main building. Everyone who attended the rally was bused to the school, where they underwent a security check inside.


Also, members of the local and national media used the school's cafeteria and a classroom to transmit stories after Bush spoke.

Expenses associated with busing - $7,200 - also have been paid. Costs included fuel and paying bus drivers, Borger said.

The highest expense, $16,600, was associated with the football field itself. Tractor-trailers drove on the field and thousands of people trampled the grass during the rally.

That bill, submitted earlier this month, has not yet been paid, Borger said.

The field has been repaired and football games have been held at Mumaw Stadium.

"It is back to normal. Back to where it should be," Borger said.

Around the state, both Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry are seeking West Virginia's five electoral votes.

Both men, their running mates and wives have made numerous campaign stops in West Virginia and state taxpayers have spent nearly $250,000 so far on the trips, according to estimates by state and local officials.

Most towns don't intend to ask the campaigns to repay the money they spent, mostly on police overtime. Federal law does not require the campaigns to pay.

Since March, Bush has been to West Virginia nine times, Vice President Dick Cheney three times, Kerry six times and his running mate, U.S. Sen. John Edwards, six times.

Police security requested by Kerry and Edwards "is not on the scale associated with the president, or even the vice president," said State Police Lt. Col. Steve Tucker, who keeps track of overtime for the campaign stops.

For example, Kerry usually requests about 25 troopers when he visits the state. For Edwards, the state is responsible for "very little security associated with his visits," Tucker said.

Bush's Secret Service agents requested 100 State Police troopers for his stop in Charleston on the Fourth of July. Bush called that a presidential visit, rather than a campaign visit, meaning taxpayers paid for it.

That day was a holiday and a Sunday. Troopers were called in from several detachments in the state, costing taxpayers $53,000.

When Bush campaigned in Hedgesville he requested 45 troopers. In some cases the troopers would have been working that day anyway, Tucker said, so it was "more a reallocation of resources than a budget concern.

"It does leave holes in our service in those detachments," he said.

Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith helped coordinate security during the president's trip to Hedgesville. He said earlier this week that he has not yet tallied the expense.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

The Herald-Mail Articles