Mississippi cities absorb thousands of dollars in expenses after Trump visits

Published 5:54 pm Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Two Mississippi cities paid thousands of dollars to provide police protection when President Donald Trump attended rallies there in the past year.

Neither Tupelo nor Biloxi is asking the Trump campaign to pay the costs, The Clarion Ledger reported. Some cities in the U.S. have requested reimbursement after similar Trump events.

Tupelo has about 40,000 residents, and the city spent about $4,775 to provide security when the president held a campaign rally Nov. 1, just four days before Mississippi’s election for governor and other state offices.

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The sum covered police overtime costs, but it did not include the price to operate the city-owned BancorpSouth Arena, where the rally was held. The arena rental bill was paid by the Trump campaign, said Kim Hanna, the city’s chief financial officer.

“The security cost as far as overtime, to me, that’s a non-issue for the city,” said Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton, a Democrat. “Regardless of who the president is, it’s up to every level of government to protect his or her safety. That’s part of the job of operating a city.”

In 2018, Biloxi paid about $11,000 in extra police and fire department costs to host the president at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum, said Mike Leonard, the city’s chief administrative officer. The city has about 46,000 residents.

Biloxi never requested reimbursement for security costs after a 2018 rally that Trump held at the Coast Coliseum in support of Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, Leonard said. In that case, Trump also paid to rent the coliseum, though the city doesn’t benefit financially from the venue.

Leonard said the city also spent about $10,000 in police and fire costs to host Vice President Mike Pence at the coliseum last month, the day before the Mississippi elections.

Shelton said a presidential visit boosts Tupelo’s economy, with people traveling from around the region to see Trump.

Tupelo has now hosted the president twice in a year. It has also faced expenses from tornadoes.

“We’re getting more experience than we need,” Shelton said. Still, he said, “the president coming to Tupelo is neat — people getting to see Air Force One, people getting to see the presidential motorcade. If you haven’t seen those things, it’s a sight to behold.”