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Nashua officials are split on billing presidential campaigns for overtime costs

Union Leader Correspondent

November 29. 2012 11:05PM

NASHUA - Several aldermen said this week they are opposed to a proposal that would prohibit the city from charging presidential campaigns for their visits.

"I understand the intent; however, I don't know how the taxpayers feel about paying," said Alderman Lori Wilshire. "These are real tax dollars that are going out."

Alderman Diane Sheehan has proposed an ordinance that states: "no sitting President or vice president, or candidates for the offices of president or vice president who have secured their party's nomination and will be included on the November federal election ballot in New Hampshire, shall be required to reimburse the city for costs and expenses of city employees or materials arising from or related to an official visit or campaign event."

The aldermanic Budget Review Committee decided Wednesday to hold the proposal in committee and allow further discussion on the topic once Sheehan is in attendance, as she left Wednesday's meeting early because of an illness.

Sheehan said there is great value in having the presidential candidates visit Nashua, and noted the importance of New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status.

The city initially pays the overtime costs for its police force assigned to cover campaign events such as President Barack Obama's recent speech at Elm Street Middle School. The city then bills its costs to the campaign or the U.S. Secret Service for reimbursement.

"Sending a bill doesn't get it paid. We already paid it," said Sheehan, explaining that until a national policy is established, a citywide policy should be created.

Several aldermen voiced opposition to Sheehan's proposal, including Alderman David Deane, who contends that the city works hard to prepare a budget that will maintain and operate the community.

"These people raise so much money," Deane said of the candidates. "If you are provided a service, you should pay for it. ... Send them the bill. Whether they pay it or not is another thing."

Deane said he would not support placing an additional line item in the city budget to accommodate presidential campaign visits. Alderman Barbara Pressly disagreed, saying the city should do everything in its power to make Nashua a friendly place to campaign.

"I would like to see Nashua really put out the welcome mat," said Pressly, who supports the proposed legislation.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said last month that it is the city's policy to bill for campaign events, including when Obama spoke outside Elm Street Middle School.

Alderman Mark Cookson, who is opposed to the legislation, maintained that the presidential candidates will likely still come to Nashua and visit, even if the city continues to bill their campaigns.

"The fact that these people are going to be here is almost a dead certainty," agreed Alderman Richard Dowd.

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