By TERRY SPENCER, Associated Press
U.S. Reps. Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch, both Florida Democrats, said Monday that Secret Service officials told Lantana Airport tenants during a closed-door meeting they cannot allow aircraft to take off from the facility.
The airport is about 6 miles southwest of Mar-a-Lago and the Secret Service says the small, propeller-driven planes and helicopters based there could be a threat to the president’s security even if the aircraft are directed away from the resort.
The flight schools, a banner operation and other businesses at Lantana say they are losing thousands of dollars every time the president visits. Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago four of the seven weekends he has been president and there have been more than 30 violations of its airspace even with Lantana Airport closed.
“It was made very clear to us (Monday) that the Secret Service will not make any changes at this time to the flight restrictions,” Frankel said. The Secret Service didn’t return a call seeking comment.
Frankel said it’s unlikely the airport’s 28 businesses could get direct reimbursement from the federal government. She suggested they negotiate rent reductions with Palm Beach County, which owns the airport, and that the county then seek reimbursement. The county is already seeking $1.7 million to pay for extra security costs incurred by Trump’s visits, and that tab is growing.
“We do not believe it is fair for one community to have the financial burden of repeated presidential visits,” Frankel said. “We, of course, want the president to be safe when he is here and his family to be safe” but the costs shouldn’t fall disproportionately on Palm Beach County taxpayers.
Jonathan Miller, the contractor who runs the airport for the county, said some of his tenants are trying to move more of their business to weekdays to avoid Trump’s visits, but that only goes so far. Many flight students need to take their lessons on weekends, and that’s when the banner company’s customers want to advertise. A helicopter business already moved because of the visits, costing Miller $440,000 in annual rent and fuel sales.
“This won’t work for four to eight years,” he said.