Committee wants council to take up $183,000 loss on bike rally

bdickerson@thesunnews.comSeptember 14, 2012 

  • More information Costs associated with spring bike rallies: •  Direct and indirect costs for Harley-Davidson rally | $144,363 •  Direct and indirect costs for Atlantic Beach Bikefest | $113,087 •  Revenue from special event permits and vendor fees for Harley-Davidson rally | $68,960 •  Revenue from special event permits and vendor fees for Atlantic Beach Bikefest | $5,400 •  Total cost for both rallies | $257,450 •  Total revenue for both rallies | $74,360 •  Total loss for Horry County | $183,090 Source: After Action Report: 2012 Spring Biker Festivals from the Horry County Public Safety Division

— The Horry County Public Safety Committee wasn’t particularly pleased when it heard the May motorcycle rallies cost the county a pretty penny.

Actually, it was a lot of pennies – more than $183,000 worth.

When expenses versus revenue was compared, that’s the amount of money Horry County lost. Thursday’s meeting was the first time any members of County Council had seen those numbers.

Now, the three-person panel wants to bring the issue before the full 12-person governing body to come up with a plan of action to make sure those types of losses don’t occur from future rallies.

Public safety committee chairman and District 2 Councilman Brent Schulz called the figure “incredible” when public safety director Paul Whitten presented it Thursday.

Friday morning, he didn’t want to discuss the issue in great detail.

“I think it’s a discussion that 12 people need to have,” Schulz said.

Whitten’s presentation broke down the costs associated with both the Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Rally and the Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

The direct and indirect expenses generated from policing the rallies totaled approximately $144,363 for the Harley event and $113,087 for Atlantic Beach’s festival.

That brings the total cost of security for both events to $257,450.

What the county didn’t see was sufficient revenue from vendor permits to offset the costs of paying officers to patrol the rallies.

The total revenue generated from both was only $74,360, according to Whitten’s report.

“I think it’s something we need to take a look at and try to minimize that loss,” said Councilman Paul Price, also on the public safety committee. “The taxpayers (are) funding it.”

Comparisons to the 2011 spring rallies couldn’t be done, as the information wasn’t available at press time.

For Horry County, the heavier loss came from the Atlantic Beach Bikefest. Of that $74,360 revenue, only $5,400 came from vendor permits for Atlantic Beach.

Councilman Marion Foxworth, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said the county hasn’t broken even on the spring bike rallies for a few years now.

This year, there was confusion leading up to the Harley rally after the owner of the Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson dealership announced the event would occur from May 18-28, which was in conflict with the May 14-20 dates listed on the Horry County website, and would overlap with Memorial Day and the Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

This led to lengthy discussions by County Council about doing away with all vendor permits or limiting the vending period from seven to five days. Ultimately, nothing changed.

Did Foxworth think all this confusion impacted the spring rallies?

Not really.

Instead, he thinks the county is still seeing the effects of both it and the city of Myrtle Beach taking a stance to try and dissuade the rallies. That included Myrtle Beach enacting a controversial 2008 helmet law that was ultimately struck down by the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2010.

“I think we’re still dealing with the fallout from that,” Foxworth said on the county and city’s stance.

He added that the county generates other expenses because of events like the Loris Bogoff and the Aynor Hoe-Down, and probably doesn’t see much of a profit from them.

“I’d venture a guess that a vast majority of them, we lose money on. But is the government really in the business of making money?” Foxworth said.

Those losses, Foxworth said, is probably made up down the road through tax revenue, accommodations and simple community goodwill those types of festivals generate.

As for making sure the bike rallies aren’t huge losses in the future, Foxworth didn’t necessarily agree with the idea suggested Thursday about possibly raising the vendor permit fees.

Currently, a seven-day permit costs $800, while a special event permit runs $950 for the Harley rally and $750 for the Atlantic Beach fest, according to Whitten’s report.

Foxworth noted that if vendor permit fees were raised substantially, and even less were sold, is it really helping the situation.

“Obviously, you don’t want to go into the hole too deeply,” he said.

Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301.

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