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How much will Trump's visit cost Fargo police? The mayor wants to know.

People line the street to watch President Donald Trump's motorcade as he returns to the Bismarck airport on Sept. 6. Trump is scheduled to visit Fargo on Wednesday, June 27. Bismarck Tribune file photo

FARGO — When a presidential campaign descends on a city, local police often help with security. Many cities will bill campaigns for those services, but that largely has not been the case in Fargo, where the taxpayer-funded city government has absorbed security costs.

In fact, the Fargo Police Department doesn't know how much presidential campaign visits have cost the city over the past several election cycles.

Police say they haven't kept separate accounts of the costs of manpower and other resources used for such visits — including overtime paid and added personnel from other law enforcement agencies.

But that's going to change, said Mayor Tim Mahoney, who's asked Chief David Todd to provide an accounting of city resources put toward President Donald Trump's visit on Wednesday, June 27. Trump plans to hold a rally at Scheels Arena in support of Rep. Kevin Cramer's bid for U.S. Senate.

"The real question is how much the cost does factor into this whole visit," Mahoney said, noting such events require juggling officers' schedules, extra personnel brought in, and vehicle and planning expenses.

Although the mayor has asked police to keep track of the costs associated with Trump's visit, police say they don't plan to bill the campaign for those costs.

Mahoney said the very visible police presence for Vice President Mike Pence's Fargo stop in March got him thinking it would be good to know the true price tags of big events, particularly since it's conceivable that campaigning could mean multiple visits by the president and vice president in the next couple of years.

"I was at the Pence event and saw a lot of police cars and police all over," Mahoney said.

For Pence's visit, Fargo Police Sgt. Kevin Volrath said an initial check found 20 officers worked 138 hours of unscheduled overtime, plus four officers worked with the vice president's security detail. But their contributions could have varied from 20 minutes to four hours, he said.

While Fargo has not historically billed for the costs to provide security for presidents, vice presidents or presidential candidates, there appears to be one recent exception, Volrath said.

That was a visit by former president Bill Clinton in 2012 to campaign on behalf of his wife, then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Just shy of four hours of time for a special-detail officer was billed to a campaign group, Volrath said.

Sometimes when other cities have billed campaigns for security costs, they haven't been paid. For example, in Green Bay, Wis., bills totaling $24,000 were still unpaid several months after Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders held campaign rallies there, The Center for Public Integrity reported.

Chief Todd has said Trump's visit will be an all-hands-on-deck event as his department and other law enforcement agencies provide security at Hector International Airport, Scheels Arena, and along the motorcade route.

Deputy Chief Joe Anderson said Friday, June 22, that Fargo police are working with the Secret Service.

"We are in the process of determining how many (Fargo police) officers and outside-agency officers are needed for the various details," Anderson wrote in an email. "We are asking for various FPD officers, at all levels, to adjust their hours to mitigate any overtime costs associated with this event. Most, if not all, of the FPD officers working President Trump's visit will be on regular-duty time."

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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