Local News

Monday, Oct 08 2012 05:48 PM

Local safety agencies pitch in for president's visit on own dime

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    By Shelby Mack / The Californian

    President Obama turns and waves as he boards Air Force One to depart from Meadows Field after his visit to Kern County on Monday.

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BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

From the moment Air Force One touched down in Bakersfield to the minute it flew back out of town, President Barack Obama was under the watchful eyes of several local agencies.

And taxpayers funded that protection -- a question several Californian readers posed during the day -- though a comprehensive tally was impossible to compile.

The Kern County Fire Department had personnel at the airport and La Paz in case calamity struck. The Kern County Sheriff's Department assisted with security at Meadows Field, on the motorcade to Keene and at La Paz, according to sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt.

The California Highway Patrol escorted the president's motorcade, temporarily closed some roadways and slowed traffic on the freeway, CHP Officer Robert Rodriguez said.

Both Pruitt and Rodriguez declined to specify how many people their agencies dedicated to the visit, citing security reasons. Spokesmen for local law enforcement agencies said they won't be reimbursed for their efforts.

"Each agency utilized its own resources to accomplish their assignments during the operation and were responsible for the funding of their resources," Pruitt said.

The Bakersfield Police Department had six employees from the traffic and bomb squad units on overtime, working wherever the motorcade traversed city roads, according to BPD Sgt. Joe Grubbs.

Pinning down the exact personnel cost would be hard, Grubbs said, because it depends on several factors such as the officers' ranks and the hours they were there.

About 50 Kern County and five Bakersfield fire personnel were on hand throughout the president's journey through the area, said John Silliman, Kern County Fire's acting deputy chief. He said the Secret Service told the department what its needs were.

"Our main mission was to be prepared to handle all types of emergency and provide safety for the public that was attending as well as the president and his staff," Silliman said.

Most of the county fire personnel designated to the two sites were on duty already but a few people were working overtime to the total tune of about $3,000 for the department, Silliman said.

Medical aid was provided to a dozen spectators -- 11 at La Paz and one at the airport -- and three people were taken to hospitals, Silliman said.

None of those incidents was serious and overall, "everything went really well," he said.

Bakersfield Fire Department Battalion Chief Ross Kelly said his department didn't incur any additional costs because of the president's visit.

"We were just on heightened alert. We were aware that the president was coming to town but really that was about it," Kelly said.

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