The big-ticket campaign fundraiser for President Obama hosted by movie producer Harvey Weinstein at his Beachside Avenue estate Monday cost the town of Westport almost $15,000 in police and fire overtime expenses, according to figures released Tuesday by First Selectman Gordon Joseloff.
"While we welcome the president visiting us, incurring unbudgeted costs are not welcome," said Joseloff, a Democrat, like Obama, but who was not among the attendees at the $35,800-a-head fundraiser. "Westport may be more affluent than some other towns, but we watch over our taxpayer dollars very carefully."
Joseloff said Police Chief Dale Call told him that Westport police incurred $12,460 in overtime costs for the Obama's visit that lasted roughly 90 minutes. That outlay does not include overtime costs incurred by other area police departments assisting Westport, which included Fairfield, Wilton, Trumbull, Easton and Monroe, as well as the State Police.
Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury reported $2,352 in overtime costs, Joseloff said. Westport fire units were on standby at Sherwood Island State Park, where the president landed and took off, and the department also provided tactical support for the visit.
Joseloff said he would seek reimbursement from the Obama presidential campaign, as well as the Democratic National Committee. He said he would send a copy of the reimbursement request to Weinstein.
Westport tried unsuccessfully to recover similar costs when President Bill Clinton visited town three times between March 1998 and June 1999 for fundraising events.
"I'm not optimistic we will be successful, but I need to make the effort," Joseloff added.
State officials said that it's unlikely that revenue lost by closing Sherwood Island State Park will ever be made up, since the Obama campaign is not expected to reimburse the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for use of the 238-acre beach and forested picnic groves.
Andrew J. McDonald, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's chief counsel, said the governor was not consulted last week on the planned visit. "My understanding is that State Police were contacted by the Secret Service," McDonald said in a phone interview. "The security and logistics of the president's travels are not something that's negotiated. They pretty much dictate what it's going to be."
On Monday, the DEEP said that its conservation police joined state troopers and the Secret Service in putting together the plan for the helicopter landing zone for Obama's visit.
The DEEP estimated that about 1,000 people visit Sherwood Island on an average summer weekday, with about $2,500 generated by parking fees. Concessions add more money.
The park's lifeguards will get paid as if they worked the day, said the DEEP.