Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit to Avon Lake on Oct. 27 raised questions about the safety of students and whether reimbursement for overtime accrued by city workers would be guaranteed before the event.
The estimated cost to the city, for police, fire and service overtime, is approximately $8,000.
Avon Lake Mayor Greg Zilka noted a Romney supporter questioned while the school remained open after some schools are closed on Election Day.
Councilman Dave Kos said the event was not an official state visit but a political rally that used taxpayer dollars.
He asked that in the future, whether it is an incumbent or challenger holding a rally in Avon Lake, regardless of the party affiliation, the city needs to ensure ahead of time costs for police, fire and service departments are going to be reimbursed.
“My concern was this was not an official state visit,” Kos said. “This was a political pep rally that used taxpayers dollars.”
Mayor Greg Zilka said overtime costs to the city for police, fire and service departments exceeded $8,000.
”If we get reimbursed, all is fine and good,” Kos said.
Zilka said although the schools agreed to allow the Romney campaign to use the high school, neither the city nor school district hosted the event.
“We have an obligation whenever a major event occurs in the city we have some obligation to make sure the event is done in a safe and organized manner so no one in the city has their safety jeopardized,” Zilka said.
Kos noted, “It’s Democratic tax dollars, it’s Republican tax dollars” paying for the overtime and then asked how Romney came to Avon Lake.
Councilman Dan Bucci, said he was approached by the Romney party organizers to find a local venue for the rally.
“I was proud to do that,” Bucci said. “I can’t thank the schools enough.”
Bucci, along with Jennifer Fenderbosch, both helped introduce Romney at the rally.
Bucci said Superintendent Bob Scott told him it was a learning experience for Avon Lake students.
Bucci also saw it as a learning experience.
“Not really because what was said on the stage… but the whole process itself to have a major candidate in Avon Lake. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“You cannot buy the publicity we had for $8,000,” Bucci said, noting that city leaders “scratch their heads” over how to promote the city and this was an opportunity to have the city noticed nationally.
Kos said it was not an issue over the candidate’s party affiliation
“There’s still a cost associated,” Kos said. “It was taxing on our services. We were told we were going to be reimbursed, I just want to make sure we are reimbursed, whether Democrat or Republican, I couldn’t care less.”
Kos noted the rally was held days before Avon Lake voters were asked to approve a paramedic levy.
Councilman Larry Meiners said he wasn’t concerned about the $8,000, he expected it to be forwarded “without a problem.”
He said he didn’t view the safety of the students as a problem due to the number of Secret Service agents and police present. Councilwoman Jennifer Fenderbosch said she also felt better about safety issues after seeing the amount of security involved with the event.
The city has not yet been reimbursed for expenses associated with the event.