Eleven years after a campaign stop by President George W. Bush in Chanhassen, the public safety bills the west metro city incurred have finally been settled.
Carver County recently wrote off more than $18,000 stemming from the resources its Sheriff's Office devoted to the Oct. 9, 2004, rally.
"I think people were generally excited about the president coming to Chanhassen," said County Commissioner Randy Maluchnik. "People didn't realize, though, that their local governments would incur a cost."
St. Louis County had the same problem, with a different outcome. When Vice President Joe Biden visited Hibbing Community College in October to rally support for U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan's re-election bid, several law enforcement agencies helped guard the event.
Eventually, grant money from the U.S. Border Patrol was found to cover those costs.
Across the country, municipalities often are left to figure out a way to foot the costs of accommodating election rallies, said Steven Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield.
Campaigns frequently argue that local governments are responsible for providing services like extra police, he said. Otherwise, the costs would add up over the course of many stopovers and take a sizable chunk of their funds. "They certainly have no interest in getting into that game," Schier said.
Campaign stop costs have the biggest effect on the budgets of smaller communities. "[For] Hennepin County and Minneapolis, St. Paul and Ramsey County — that's a kind of a fly-on-the-wall expenditure for them," Maluchnik said.
Chanhassen finance director Greg Sticha said that after the Bush rally, officials sent three invoices to the Bush campaign requesting reimbursement of more than $15,000.
In a letter to the Bush campaign after the 2004 visit, former Carver County Sheriff Bud Olson submitted a claim for the expenses. In a follow-up communication, he argued that reimbursement was appropriate because the president's visit had been sponsored by the Republican Party for political purposes.
Two bills were paid
The campaign did pay two bills — $783 for garbage containers and $675 to rent the 10-acre park adjacent to City Hall and the local elementary school, where thousands gathered during the rally.
For the rest of the bill, which covered staff overtime, firefighter standby hours and barricade rentals, the Republican National Committee advised the city to contact the Secret Service, Sticha said.
But eventually, the city had to pay the costs out of its own pocket. "It was just part of our budget for that year," said Sticha, who did not work for the city in 2004.
Because it's no longer possible to collect a bill from the campaign, it became necessary for Carver County to take the expected reimbursement off the books, Maluchnik said.
He said the public should be made aware of these kind of expenditures, since some people might find it problematic when taxpayer money is used to subsidize a partisan event.
A grant proves handy
Like similar high-profile campaign stops nationwide, Biden's appearance, which called for motorcades and extra law enforcement, required an assortment of additional services.
"For the most part, local agencies, big or small, will normally just have to eat that expense," said St. Louis County Undersheriff David Phillips.
Sheriff's Office officials there looked around for a way to get some reimbursement, and found some in a U.S. Border Patrol operations grant to help cover overtime expenses.
"In this case, we kind of cleverly found an applicable pile of grant money we could utilize," Phillips said.
He said campaigns often direct local agencies to the U.S. Secret Service to request reimbursement. But "the Secret Service, they say, 'We don't have a budget to pay local agencies,' " said Phillips, who also served on patrol details when President Bill Clinton visited the area.
Costs, but also benefits
Almost 18,000 people came out to hear Bush's 2004 speech in Chanhassen. Presumably, some of them also stopped by local businesses that day. So election stops can bring economic and publicity benefits to local governments, Schier said.
"The state of Iowa gets a lot of money out of [its] precinct caucuses, and the towns don't charge for campaign events," he said.
Phillips said overall, it's a good thing when a campaign decides a community is important enough to visit.
"We just kind of roll with it," he said.
Parker Lemke is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.