Romney visit cost city $25K
June 1, 2012
Claiming seized property
Property seized Tuesday at the Secret Service security checkpoint during the Mitt Romney campaign speech is being held by the Craig Police Department. Anyone who has not claimed their property has until June 30 to do so. Residents will be required to describe the items before they are returned. For more, call Craig Police Department Commander Bill Leonard at 826-2367.
A week ago, Craig city officials began receiving phone calls seeking assistance with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s scheduled campaign visit to the city.
Romney appeared Tuesday before an estimated 2,000 people at Alice Pleasant Park in downtown Craig, the first time a presidential candidate has campaigned in Moffat County.
On Thursday, city officials said the multi-agency effort to host and staff the campaign rally went off without a hitch. There were no arrests made during the event.
"I saw Secret Service kick one kid out of a tree he climbed across the street," Craig Mayor Terry Carwile said. "That was about the extent of it, and I think the community can take a lot of pride in how it responded to the event."
Various city officials began crunching numbers shortly after the visit to determine what the cost was in personnel, equipment and overtime.
Craig Police, Craig Fire/Rescue and the city’s road and bridge and parks and recreation departments helped staff the campaign rally.
Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said Moffat County and Routt County sheriff’s offices also participated in Romney’s protection detail.
Although estimates from Moffat County will not be available until the end of next week, Vanatta said the total cost to the city and its taxpayers worked out to be $25,649.
Routt County reported expenses of $1,680 not including the sheriff and undersheriff's time, Vanatta said.
"I never would have anticipated in my wildest dreams that I would be interacting with the U.S. Secret Service as a government functionary in Craig, Colo.," Carwile said. "For an event of this magnitude, of this significance for the community historically, it was well worth it."
The police department incurred the most expense — $10,379.
More than half of that figure, $5,700, went for officer overtime pay, or roughly 7 percent of Vanatta’s overtime budget for the year.
"It could have a substantial impact depending on how the rest of the year goes, but I think it was very, very good for the community," Vanatta said. "We got local and national exposure for the issues surrounding energy, which is the engine that drives this community, and it's hard to put a price tag on that."
Randy Call, city road and bridge director, said he was contacted by several residents who were unhappy to see their tax dollars spent on a Republican Party event.
"We're a non-partisan department, so we don't care," Call said. "Essentially all we did was close the road down as if it were a parade, the same as we would for the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, the (Veterans of Foreign Wars), the Boy Scouts or anyone else who would want to have a parade."
Considering Craig’s population is 9,464, according to the 2010 Census, hosting the event cost city taxpayers $2.71 each, Call said.
"I have to look at it this way — I don't care if it had been (President Barack) Obama or anybody else," Call said. "It's history for Craig because we've never had anyone of that caliber here, so why worry about it? It all averages out."
Vanatta attributes the success of the event to training.
Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, public safety officers at all levels are required to know how to navigate the National Incident Management System and take logistics training to respond to large-scale emergencies or an event like a presidential campaign visit.
"This was the first time we were able to put that training to practical use," Vanatta said. "I think that is part of why everything went so smoothly."
The police chief said the event "could have been a lot different" if Yampa Valley law enforcement agencies didn't have a good working relationship.
"We don't have any major issues over jurisdiction and we all enjoy working together and helping each other out," he said. "All I had to do was call a couple of other agencies and say, 'We need help,' and we had help." Lt. KC Hume, of the Moffat County Sheriff's Office, said that good working relationship extends beyond Yampa Valley agencies.
Hume was assigned to the Romney protection detail and assisted Secret Service in monitoring the crowd.
Hume, who is also Moffat County Republican Party chairman, said he didn't hear a word of Romney's 14-minute speech.
"After Tuesday, I have a whole new respect for the Secret Service," he said. "That is a really difficult job because of all of the people you have to watch. "It's something you don't really think about, but as soon as (Romney's) bus rolled up, everyone had a cell phone or a camera in the air. As quickly as you can you're taking a mental snapshot of what people have in the air to determine whether it is a potential threat or not.”