NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) — Once President Trump touches down at Muskegon County Airport in Norton Shores on Saturday, he will become only the fourth sitting president to visit the area.
And the airport is expecting upwards of 10,000 people to turn out for the campaign rally.
“Whether that’s the person you’re voting for or not, the idea that they’re coming here, it’s unique and it’s historical,” said Norton Shores Mayor Gary Nelund.
The airport has about 250 parking spaces to spare. With that in mind, President Trump’s sudden visit is expected to create serious traffic backups in the area.
“It’s going to be a logistical nightmare,” said Nelund, who says he is unsure why Muskegon County was chosen as a campaign stop.
About 1,500 additional spaces with shuttle services are being offered at the nearby Lakes Mall. And there will be parking made available at Western Michigan Christian High School, as well as the Pointes shopping center.
Regardless of the challenge of hosting the president, Mayor Nelund says it’s still an honor.
“I mean, you have to respect the office,” Nelund said. “Maybe not the officeholder, for some people. We’ve gotten some negative comments, but I think it puts us on the map.”
Nelund’s hope is that the event will act as an economic draw, but says it’s unlikely to outweigh the financial losses that accompany a presidential visit.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, it will end up costing the city,” Nelund said. “We’ll end up paying all this overtime and different things. When George Bush was here, it was somewhere between $7,000 to $10,000 it cost the city. And now, with inflation, I can imagine we’re $15,000 to $20,000 it’ll cost us. But I don’t think we had a choice. We couldn’t say no.”
Those are losses Nelund doesn’t ever expect to make up.
Norton Shores has roughly 30 police officers but needs about 100 to properly host the rally, meaning resources are being taken from nearby cities and departments, with mandatory overtime.
“Everybody’s helping and doing what they can,” Nelund said. “It’s been thrown together. Our chief sent me a text earlier today and he said, ‘Thirty more hours and I can go to sleep.'”
Former Vice President Joe Biden released this statement in response to President Trump’s visit to west Michigan Saturday morning:
“Michigan families are facing enormous challenges right now. More than 140,000 Michiganders have been infected by COVID-19, hundreds of thousands are out of work, small businesses are scared that they won’t make it through the winter, and parents are worried about their kids’ safety at school. Yet all President Trump is offering the people of Michigan is more lies and distractions — no plan to get the virus under control, no strategy for pulling our economy out of this recession, no vision for uniting the country.
With their votes, Michiganders now have a chance to put an end to President Trump’s chaos and failures. Michigan deserves a leader in the White House who will fight for workers and families — not just big corporations and the super wealthy. I will unite our nation to get control of this virus, lower health care costs, and build our economy back better.”
The gates open at Muskegon County Airport at 2 p.m. on Saturday, with the president scheduled to start speaking at 5 p.m.
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