The National Governors Association’s annual summer conference has required the largest security presence in Maine in decades, but neither Gov. Janet Mills’ office nor association staff could say Thursday how much it cost and how much of the bill taxpayers are footing.

Months of planning went into the ramped-up security at the conference, resulting in multiple street closures in Portland, the heavy law enforcement presence visitors to downtown Portland encountered Wednesday and Thursday, and the closure to the public of one of the world’s most iconic lighthouses.

Portland police close Commercial Street from Pearl to Franklin to traffic just after 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Multiple streets in Portland’s downtown district and along its congested waterfront will be temporarily closed to traffic during the National Governors Association summer conference being held in the city Wednesday through Friday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

A spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety said planning for the event began in 2020 but was put on pause by the COVID-19 pandemic. Planning resumed in the fall of 2021 and led to the inconveniences and disruptions that some Mainers and visitors bumped into this week.

But Shannon Moss, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said heightened security was necessary to ensure the safety of governors, their families, staff and guests.

“(The NGA conference) is absolutely the largest security event to take place in Maine in decades,” Moss said in an email Thursday. “It has been a huge undertaking with multiple agencies working together to secure the safety of the governors, their families, other dignitaries and guests.”

Maine State Police, Portland police and private security details, including troopers from other states, were deployed during the three-day conference, which was based at the Holiday Inn by the Bay on Spring Street in Portland. In addition to intense security, public and media access to the gathering also was restricted.


Moss was unable to provide details on how much the Maine State Police security details cost, an amount that she said might not be known for several more weeks.

“I can’t even give you Maine State Police’s cost alone as that number is fluid given unforeseen variables,” Moss wrote in an email.

Mills’ office did not respond to a request Thursday asking how much security measures will cost the state.

A sign notifies motorists that Fort Williams Park was closed to the public on Thursday afternoon due to the semi-annual meeting of the National Governors Association. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The National Governors Association is funded by membership fees paid by each state. According to a spokesman for Mills, Maine pays annual dues of $60,700 to the NGA. The fees vary by state, with some larger states paying much more.

The governor’s office did not respond Thursday to a request seeking information on whether the NGA would reimburse the state for related security expenses. Nor did association staff respond to questions Thursday about the organization’s finances, how it assesses fees and the cost of the summer meeting being held this week in Portland.

One of the biggest disruptions occurred Thursday afternoon when police closed Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth – home to the iconic Portland Head Light – to the public at 1 p.m. Visitors were not allowed into the 90-acre park for the rest of the day while governors sat down for a lobster bake near the lighthouse, according to Cape Elizabeth Police Chief Paul Fenton. He estimated that more than 600 people were still at the park near sunset.


Fenton said the town, which owns the park, agreed to the closure after being approached by the NGA.

“I realize the closure has caused some frustration, but it’s such a unique event. We wanted to make sure that it was kept as safe as possible,” Fenton said Thursday evening. Fenton said the Cape Elizabeth Police Department security detail will not cost taxpayers a dime.

“We are going to bill this out to the National Governors Association at no cost to the taxpayer,” Fenton said.

Wes and Rebecca Calkin of Washington, D.C. try to find cell service after taking an Uber ride to Fort Williams Park on Thursday, July 14, 2022, only to find that the park was being closed for the rest of the day. It is their last day in Maine and they were hoping to see the park before they left. The park was closed until sunrise Friday because of a lobster bake event for the governors attending the NFA meeting. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Wes and Rebecca Calkin wanted to visit Portland Head Light on the last day of their four-day vacation to Maine, but didn’t know it was closed and were turned away by police. The Calkins, who live in Washington, D.C., arrived via Lyft around 1 p.m.

Their Lyft driver had to pick up another customer after leaving the Calkins at the park entrance. When they tried calling for another ride, they didn’t have cell reception. Rebecca Calkin said they started walking back to South Portland and finally were able to connect with an Uber driver after walking five minutes.



“It was a bummer not being able to get into the park, but we tried to make the best of it,” she said. They returned to Portland for dinner at Mr. Tuna before catching a flight back to the nation’s capital.

Calkin said that she and her husband did get to see Portland Head Light when they sailed past it on a schooner excursion on Casco Bay earlier in their visit.

“We’re not angry. It was just a small hiccup for us,” she said, adding that they thoroughly enjoyed their vacation in Maine, especially the restaurants in Portland where they dined.

Conference attendees gather at Porthole and Boone’s where an event for the National Governor’s Association was taking place on Wednesday. Portland police closed Commercial Street to car traffic from Pearl to Franklin during the event. The National Governors Association summer conference being held in the city Wednesday through Friday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

There was a heavy police presence in downtown Portland on Thursday and a section of Spring Street in front of the Holiday Inn by the Bay was closed to traffic. The hotel served as the base for the governors’ meeting. There were no reports of protests on Thursday after a peaceful protest was staged by abortion-rights activists on Commercial Street Wednesday evening while governors, family and staff dined Boone’s Fish House and Oyster Room.

Media were allowed to cover only two meetings on Thursday and two additional meetings on Friday. Those meetings covered topics such as science education, as well as travel and tourism. Security also was beefed up at the two downtown hotels where governors were staying – the Holiday Inn by the Bay and the Westin Harborview Hotel on High Street.

Nineteen governors attended the Portland conference. In addition to Mills, other governors who attended included Democrat John Carney of Delaware and Republicans Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Doug Burgum of North Dakota, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts.

The conference ends Friday.

Staff Writers Randy Billings and Edward D. Murphy contributed to this report.

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