Trump’s N.J. Golf Town: Hills, Horses And Now Security BillsBy
Bedminster, where even a patio table askew hits police blotter
Overtime budget not enough for needs of weekend White House
Mayor Steve Parker was happy to deploy extra security when Donald Trump held transition meetings at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. One weekend, a media invasion and 25 percent of the police overtime budget later, Parker is fretting over potentially four years of hubbub in the heart of horse country.
The presence of a president-elect upended life in Barack Obama’s Chicago neighborhood, where the police spent more than $2 million on security in the lead-up to his January 2009 inaugural. Crawford, Texas, the 750-population town nearest President George W. Bush’s Prairie Chapel Ranch retreat, temporarily had to turn the gym of its K-12 school into a media center for national press every August, when Bush came to stay.
Now, a month before Trump takes the oath of office in Washington, his security needs are stressing municipal budgets and aggravating some local residents and businesses. While the U.S. Secret Service is responsible for the president’s safety, agents rely on local law enforcement to provide supplemental security and handle crowds and traffic disruptions.
“This is probably one of his favorite, if not the favorite, golf courses,” Parker, 52, mayor of Bedminster for five years, said in an interview. “What happens if this becomes a normal state of events?”
Other Trump locations face similar challenges. The Palm Beach County, Florida, sheriff’s office has paid almost $250,000 in overtime related to Trump’s Thanksgiving stay at his estate. A Dec. 5 letter to U.S. House and Senate leaders from New York’s congressional delegation cited “the tens of millions of dollars” related to overtime, street closings and other operations near Trump Tower, the president-elect’s transition base. The jeweler Tiffany & Co., whose flagship is in the tower, in its third-quarter report noted the “adverse effect on traffic in that store” and the possibility of soft sales there through year’s end.
Forty-six miles (74 kilometers) west of Trump Tower is Bedminster, nestled in the Somerset Hills, where the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a weekend homeowner, rode with the Essex Fox Hounds and motorists to this day yield to horse-drawn carriages trotting their way to local competitions. Just 8,200 people live in Bedminster’s 27 square miles, where the median household income is $95,600, a third higher than New Jersey’s.
In July, items of note in Bedminster’s police blotter were a vanished 7-iron and a mysteriously upturned patio table. Last month, residents passing Trump’s 72-hole Trump National Golf Club, on an estate formerly owned by the late automaker John DeLorean, called the police about suspicious vehicles at the club’s entrance. It turned out to be media awaiting Trump’s arrival for a weekend of meetings with potential Cabinet members.
The short-term spending bill passed by Congress last week included $7 million in additional federal grants to help state and local law enforcement cover overtime costs associated with Trump’s protection through his inauguration in January. But lawmakers have complained the amount falls far short of the actual additional cost, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio saying in a letter to lawmakers earlier this month that the city was seeking a $35 million reimbursement for his city alone.
“I am extremely disappointed that the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government does not fully reimburse the people of New York for the unprecedented security costs incurred to keep the President-elect and his family safe between the election and his inauguration," Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, even Trump Tower residents must be screened on the way to their homes.
“I go in and out with absolutely zero trouble,” Howard Davidowitz, chairman of the retail consulting and investment banking firm Davidowitz & Associates, told Bloomberg Television on Nov. 25. “Now, there are people living there -- I’ve lived there 22 years -- who are hysterical.”
In Texas, Crawford Mayor Marilyn Judy said her town, with one police officer on duty at any given time, used back-up from the McLennan County sheriff to handle an influx of reporters and protesters when Bush was in residence. He used the 1,600-acre ranch to meet foreign heads of state, including for a three-day summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Every August, Bush retreated there for a weeks-long vacation.
“A lot of people had apprehension of him being here,” Judy, 59, a retired schoolteacher, said of Bush, whose full-time home now is in Dallas. “Personally I felt safe. You can’t really get to him in the middle of Texas -- there’s Army bases and Air Force bases. He flew in here.”
Near Palm Beach, the U.S. Coast Guard set up three security zones around the Intracoastal Waterway and offshore for five days last month for the Thanksgiving holiday, when Trump, 70, and his family were visiting Mar-a-Lago. Therese Barbera, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County sheriff’s office, said the department so far has spent $248,000 on extra security on land, for which it will seek federal reimbursement.
Trump’s weekend visit to Bedminster began Nov. 18 with the evening rush-hour closing of the Lincoln Tunnel and express lanes of Interstate 78 as his motorcade headed west from New York City. Though the Secret Service and state police did the bulk of security work, when the visit was over, the township had spent $3,500 on police overtime.
Now, Parker said, he’s talking to state and county officials about covering the costs of future visits.
“You put two or three of those weekends together and you run dry at the end of the year,” Parker said. “It’s not insignificant.”
— With assistance by Justin Sink