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Published: 9/1/2004

Bush visit no cheap tour

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN AND RACHEL ZINN
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Supporters cheer for the President at his visit to Fort Meigs. Supporters cheer for the President at his visit to Fort Meigs.
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President Bush's bus tour through northwest Ohio on Saturday was expensive for law enforcement agencies, which racked up more than $83,000 in costs to provide security and control traffic along the route.

The visit cost local officials around $51,000 for overtime, while the Ohio Highway Patrol spent an estimated $32,295 for the planning, personnel, equipment, and fuel needed to escort the presidential motorcade from the Dayton area to Toledo Express Airport.

"It was a lengthy road trip, which needed lots of planning at intersections to make sure there was plenty of security," said Lt. Rick Zwayer, spokesman for the patrol.

When Democratic challenger John Kerry held a rally in downtown Bowling Green Aug. 1, the city of Bowling Green incurred overtime costs of $18,705, which included police, fire-EMS, public works, and electric division workers.

With help from the Wood County sheriff's office and Bowling Green State University police, total security for the Kerry visit cost just under $25,000.

Between Bush campaign stops Saturday at Lima Senior High School and Fort Meigs State Memorial in Perrysburg, the motorcade passed through five counties and at least 10 villages and cities where local police and sheriff's deputies were expected to stop traffic and block all intersections.

Lima police incurred the biggest expense, about $14,000 in overtime, while overtime and regular pay for Perrysburg police and firefighters on duty for the presidential rally totaled $10,587.

Nearby police and fire departments along with the Wood County sheriff's office sent officers, firefighters, or paramedics to Perrysburg to lend a hand as more than 12,000 people descended on Fort Meigs for the President's visit.

"We used everybody in the division, and it would have been nice to have even a few more people," Perrysburg police Lt. Dave Weaver said. "We reached out to the departments around us and they came through."

Perrysburg Township spent $2,532 on overtime and regular wages for officers working the event, while Lake Township police spent about $2,000.

Security and emergency forces from local agencies also assisted after the rally at Toledo Express Airport, where President Bush departed on Air Force One.

The Lucas County sheriff's office spent about $1,975 on overtime pay for officers guarding the airport.

"We had lots of our auxiliary volunteers out there, "Lucas County Sheriff James Telb said. "That cut back on costs."

In Lima, Police Chief Greg Garlock said the city had at least 35 officers working on overtime Saturday.

President Bush spent nearly two hours in Lima, addressing about 2,000 people at the city's new high school.

"To do it right is the cost of doing business," Chief Garlock said. "You'd rather err on the side of caution than be too lax. We just tried to make the site as secure as possible, and we utilized as many people as we felt we needed to do that."

Both Bowling Green and Wood County were on duty for the President's visit. Sgt. Major Mike Blair said 10 sheriff's deputies were assigned to the motorcade, and 13 were posted in and around Fort Meigs at a cost of $4,700 for their 164 hours of work.

Auxiliary deputies, who aren't paid, along with the sheriff and Sergeant Major Blair, who aren't paid overtime, also put in 103 hours Saturday, he said.

Although Mr. Bush only drove through Bowling Green on State Rt. 25, its Main Street, overtime costs for city police and public works employees added up to $7,450, officials said.

Some villages and cities along the motorcade's route were still waiting for the payroll bills to arrive, while others added up the overtime slips and decided the honor of a presidential visit was a big expense for what amounted to a long caravan of buses, vans, and emergency vehicles breezing through town.

"He didn't stop. He came through," said Capt. Rodger Wilson, acting police chief in financially strapped Fostoria, where overtime costs for police and other city employees totaled $2,924.

Captain Wilson said nearly the entire police force was working to help block intersections for the motorcade. The Seneca County sheriff's office sent nearly a dozen deputies over to help, and Tiffin police sent two officers, he said.

"We put everything we had into gear," Captain Wilson said. "I don't think it even took him 10 minutes to get through town."

Findlay police used up $2,997 in overtime for officers, while six Hancock County sheriff's deputies were paid about $650 in overtime.

Janet Hermiller, Columbus Grove's fiscal officer, said the President's drive through the Putnam County town was exciting but costly.

Three of four village workers were on duty along with local police and officers from neighboring departments like Kalida, she said.

"For a small town, it's a lot," Ms. Hermiller said. "And it took three minutes from one end of town to the other end."

Putnam County Sheriff James Beutler said his department incurred only about $200 in overtime costs, in part because it used deputies already on duty for the President's visit.

"It's something that you just do and get it done," Sheriff Beutler said. "We all locally have to assume that cost."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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