President Returning To Our Area, Bringing Added Cost and Benefit

Among those coming to South Florida for President's Day weekend will be the President himself.

For the third straight weekend, Air Force One is expected to bring President Trump to Palm Beach International Airport for a stay at Mar-a-Lago.

The Palm Beach Sheriff's Office has already tabulated over $1.5 million in overtime costs for assisting with security since Trump was elected in November. Trump spent time at his Palm Beach estate over the holidays finalizing details of the transition and working on his inaugural address. 

Since being sworn in, the President spent his first weekend in the nation's capital and the next two in Palm Beach, including bringing the Japanese Prime Minister to the area last weekend. The Federal Aviation Administration has already issued a travel advisory for this coming weekend as well.

"I think it is an honor anytime any community can play host to a President," said Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Melissa McKinlay. "Regardless of political affiliation, it's the President of the United States and that's pretty neat."

Congresswoman Lois Frankel held a meeting with other local airport employees who say that the flight restrictions that come with the President's visits are costing them money. McKinlay says some other businesses on Palm Beach have complained of lost sales and concerns over customers getting to the island. 

Even though there may be some immediate issues for locals, officials expect many long-term benefits from the President's visits. In the long run, the added exposure is expected to provide a net gain to the area, which has already been suggested as a potential home for the eventual Trump Presidential Library at a site near Southern Boulevard, where Air Force One will sit for the third weekend in a row starting Friday.

"There have been a lot of discussions about what the costs are," said Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron. "The other side of it is that there are some real benefits that we have to gain from this as well. I mean, the First Ladies of Japan and the U.S. traveling to the Morikami Museum, that's a sort of international exposure that doesn't come too often."

The County Commission is set to hold a meeting regarding the resources needed to handle these visits going forward next week as they begin the process of planning the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. While local governments do not usual get money from the federal government to cover the costs of helping with security and other needs of a Presidential visit, the ongoing price for Palm Beach and Trump Tower in New York City provide unique situations compared to the costs incurred for past Commanders in Chief.

"This is more than just an infrequent trip to somewhere in the country," said Bonlarron. "This is something that may be at least a little more regular."

The County also is working with the South Florida Congressional delegation on allocating federal funds to help offset the added costs of what apparently will be regular Trump visits to the area. 

(Photo credit: Nicholas Kamm)

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