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November 10. 2012 11:46PM

Manchester mayor wants policy governing campaign visit costs

MANCHESTER - In the wake of the presidential campaign, Mayor Ted Gatsas wants to make it clear that the city won't be footing the bill when major candidates come to town.

Gatsas said the Board of Mayor and Aldermen needs to adopt a policy governing how such campaign visits are coordinated and who covers the costs, such as police overtime and park rental fees.

Several communities have had to grapple with whether to bill the Obama campaign for the several visits he made over the past year leading up to his reelection last week. Municipalities typically incur security and other costs during such visits.

Gatsas said the city needed a clear policy, regardless of which candidate holds an event in the city.

"It should be the same for anybody who visits," he said. "I don't know if we absorbed the costs for the Romney visit the other night, but they should have to pay. It should be the same across the board. It shouldn't be about political party."

Gatsas said such visits also need to be coordinated from the office of the mayor or city clerk. As it stands, the U.S. Secret Service has directly contacted and worked with separate departments, Gatsas said.

The Manchester Police Department has said that costs associated with presidential events are minimal.

An Obama speech at Veterans Park in October "would not result in any direct costs to the Manchester Police Department or the city of Manchester, so none is billed," police said the day before the event.

Alderman Phil Greazzo has also questioned how the city's costs for such events are calculated and covered. "We're going to make sure we know what these events are costing, and that the city sends a bill," he said. "I asked about the (Obama) event before it happened. It turns out no one paid up front, and the city is going to be footing the bill."

Other communities have taken a range of responses to presidential campaign visits, and even if they send out a bill, it doesn't mean it gets paid.

Aldermen in Nashua are set to take up a proposal this week to have the city always cover the costs for presidential campaign visits, on the grounds such events bolter the city's reputation.

The proposal comes after the city hosted a number of visits from presidential candidates.

A March 1 Obama visit to Nashua was touted as a presidential visit, so the campaign was not charged for any associated costs, according to the city's mayor. But when Mitt Romney campaigned there Sept. 7, the campaign was charged $2,000 for the use of Holman Stadium and $5,000 for police overtime. The mayor said the campaign paid the Holman bill, but told the city to contact the Secret Service for the police work.

Windham taxpayers covered a $5,400 bill for an Obama campaign visit Aug. 18, according to previous media accounts. In Durham, an anonymous donor offered to pay nearly $13,000 for a Jan. 25 Obama campaign visit.

The Portsmouth City Council voted to bill the Obama campaign for $30,000 associated with a Sept. 7 visit by Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their wives. The town's city manager told the Union Leader last month that it had not received any payment - and did not expect to.

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Ted Siefer may be reached at tsiefer@unionleader.com.

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