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Anonymous donor to cover public safety costs of Obama stop in Durham

Union Leader Correspondent

June 24. 2012 4:38PM
Durham Police Chief David Kurz talks to reporters during a news conference Sunday to announce that an anonymous local donor had offered to pay up to $20,000 for the town's public safety expenses related to President Barack Obama's scheduled visit to Oyster River High School today. Behind Kurz from left are Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig, Assistant Fire Chief Jason Cleary and Durham Town Council Chairman Jay Gooze. (Gretyl Macalaster Photo)

DURHAM - A resident who asked to remain anonymous stepped forward Sunday and offered to donate up to $20,000 to the town for public safety costs related to President Barack Obama's visit today.

The town found itself at the center of a campaign-cost controversy this weekend after the Obama for America-New Hampshire campaign refused a request to pick up the tab for hiring police officers. The President is scheduled to visit Oyster River High School this afternoon.

A Durham Town Council meeting had been scheduled for this morning to address the issue.

Town Council Chairman Jay Gooze said at a news conference Sunday that the donor supported the town's position that local taxpayers should not have to bear the costs related to a campaign visit.

'This anonymous donor wanted to ensure that people are aware that they completely supported our position and feel that this should be compensated by the campaign,' Gooze said Sunday afternoon at the Durham Town Offices.

Gooze emphasized that the town of Durham, home to the University of New Hampshire, is honored to be hosting the President of the United States, and that the issue was not one of politics or partisanship. Gooze said he is himself an Obama supporter and a majority of Durham voters are registered Democrats.

'To be clear, our request came from the basic responsibility that a local government has to its residents to ensure that expenses outside our approved budget are recovered in a fair and equitable manner,' Gooze said.

Town Administrator Todd Selig raised the reimbursement issue. Selig said some people have expressed the opinion that the question was 'unAmerican.' Others were more positive, Selig said.

'This for us has not been a popularity contest. We've endeavored to do the right thing and to do it in a respectful way,' Selig said.

Gooze said he has also heard a lot of feedback on the issue.

'We have heard from those who think it's disrespectful to ask the President's campaign for help in covering the cost of his visit. And we have heard from others who say that no local taxpayer, regardless of party loyalty, should foot a campaign expense,' Gooze said.

He said the town council will discuss the issue at a later date, but said now is the time for the town to look forward to the President's visit; 1,000-plus people are expected to attend.

Durham Police Chief David Kurz said the expected cost to his department will be about $16,500. He has about 18 officers, who will all be on duty. That is not enough to cover the security needs of the day, he said. University of New Hampshire police, the Strafford County Sheriff's Department and other area departments will also be assisting.

The anticipated fire department cost is about $3,100. Assistant Fire Chief Jason Cleary said the services of his department are as much for the safety of the attendees as the security of the President.

Gooze said there was never a question that the town was going to warmly welcome the President, and provide all the necessary public safety services required by the Secret Service for the visit.

He said the donation to cover the cost of doing so was a 'wonderful surprise.'

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