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Department Feature: Kennebunkport finds presidential vacations both an honor and a fiscal burden
[Kennebunkport, ME]

May 20, 2001
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Department Feature: Kennebunkport finds presidential vacations both an honor and a fiscal burden
[Kennebunkport, ME]

(KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine) – The summer resort of Kennebunkport has an unusual distinction -- providing a home away from the White House for two U.S. presidents.

The expected visits by President George W. Bush are also likely to be a financial headache for the local police department and taxpayers.

"It is a great honor to have the president here,” said Police Chief Robert Sullivan. “But it is also a great expense." While Sullivan refuses to discuss money, manpower or security details in in connection with presidential visits, he agreed that a figure of up to $100,000 additional expense a year when George H.W. Bush was president was a reasonable estimate.

When the elder Bush was in office from 1989 to 1993, Kennebunkport was reimbursed for the cost of police overtime and other expenses under a federal law that dates back to Jimmy Carter’s day. The law allows a president to designate an official residence away from Washington, which gets financial assistance.

But the new President Bush has his own official residence, his ranch near Waco, Texas. Sullivan believes that the president will be putting in some time at the family estate on the Maine waterfront, especially in the summer when Texas gets hot.

“He does spend some time up here if past history is any indication,” Sullivan said.

The Secret Service does most of the work of protecting the president, along with guarding former presidents and presidential candidates and chasing counterfeiters. And agents like to have what is known as total area control when the president moves, meaning that no other traffic will be moving at the same time. That tends to create massive traffic jams and a lot of work for local police.

Kennebunkport has a population of about 3,500 in the winter, policed by 11 officers. In the summer, there are 25,000 to 32,000 residents, Sullivan said, and the department hires eight seasonal officers, most of them college students majoring in criminal justice. Maine, one of the country’s least densely populated states, also has a relatively small state police force, which is likely to be strained by presidential visits.

Maine’s congressional delegation is trying to help out.

Dave Lackey, communications director for Sen. Olympia Snowe said that proposed legislation would provide additional reimbursement for towns under 7,000 designated by the president as vacation spots. The money could be used both for Kennebunkport police and for Maine state troopers who might be used as the president or his family move between an airport and the town.

Snowe, Sen. Susan Collins and other legislators are also trying to determine if the problem can be solved administratively, with the Treasury Dept. reimbursing the locals.

The Secret Service has had a continued presence in Kennebunkport because agents are still assigned to the elder Bush. But Lackey said that the security provided for an ex-president is far less intense than that given a sitting one.

"We certainly want to help them, and one way to do that is to make sure that the local departments have the resources they need."

CORRECTION: The car in the accompanying photo is from Kennebunk, not Kennebunkport, ME. The two towns are located next to each other, but have separate departments. We are leaving the photo posted as we cannot find a picture for Kennebunkport online.

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