Pence visits pricey for his hometown police

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, wave to guests after arriving on Air Force Two on Sept. 22, 2017, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

COLUMBUS, Ind. (The Republic) — Visits by Vice President Mike Pence to his hometown of Columbus have prompted the city to increase its overtime budgets for the police and fire departments by a combined $70,000.

The Columbus City Council gave initial approval Tuesday in a 6-0 vote, with Councilwoman Elaine Wagner absent, to hike the city’s overtime budgets by $70,000 from the $390,388 initially approved for 2017, an 18 percent increase.

About half of the $70,000 is tied directly to three visits to the city this year by Pence, Mayor Jim Lienhoop said.

The proposal calls for an additional $40,000 for fire department overtime and $30,000 for police department overtime.

Pence’s most recent visit to Columbus occurred Oct. 20, when he arrived at the Columbus Municipal Airport on Air Force 2 to attend his son’s weekend wedding at Brown County State Park. The vice president’s mother and other family members still live in Columbus.

Pence had also flown into Columbus Municipal Airport on Air Force Two the morning of May 28 to attend the Indianapolis 500, then spent time from late afternoon to early evening with family in Columbus.

In addition, Pence made at least one trip to Columbus by car after appearing in Anderson for a Sept. 22 public event.

“We’re happy to help whenever he’s inside the city,” the mayor said.

The Columbus Police department’s role when Pence is in town may involve providing extra security on behalf of the Secret Service or assisting in escorting his motorcade, Lienhoop said.

“We’ve been briefed on what they might ask,” he said, referring to the Secret Service.

The fire department remains on standby on the tarmac at the airport whenever Pence arrives by plane, Lienhoop said.

The extra $70,000 comes from within from the police and fire personnel budgets, meaning the city is simply shifting money around to cover the overtime cost, said Jamie Brinegar, the city’s finance director.

Lienhoop said the city estimates Pence could make two more visits to Columbus this year.

“We’re just trying to be a little prudent with respect to the budget to make sure we’ve got enough money in case we need it,” he said. “We don’t know if he’s coming, but we try to be prepared if he does.”

City Councilman Tom Dell also supported the increase in public-safety overtime tied to Pence, saying the city has an obligation to provide necessary services for dignitaries.

“We just do what we have to do,” Dell said.

Columbus resident Glenn Petri was the lone individual who addressed Lienhoop about Pence’s visits and the costs incurred by the city.

“Is there anyway we can bill the federal government?” Petri asked.

Lienhoop responded that isn’t possible, saying the city had already inquired about doing so.

What’s next

The Columbus City Council will consider a final reading of the overtime ordinance, increasing the overtime budget for the police and fire departments by $70,000 during its 6 p.m. meeting Dec. 5 in council chambers at City Hall, 123 Washington St.