By STEVEN NALLEY
The Sturgis Board of Aldermen rejected the Sturgis South Bike Rally Board’s latest funding agreement to reinstate the city’s annual motorcycle rally at its meeting Tuesday night.
No representatives from the rally board were present at the meeting. Donny Hanson, rally board president, said his board did not see a point in attending because the city board had the contract proposal.
“They’ve had that contract for well over a month now, and we have told the mayor and our liaison, (Alderman) Mike Collins, to tell the board members if they had any questions they wanted to ask ... let us know; nobody ever called us,” Hanson said. “That’s why we didn’t have anyone there ... We were not asked to be there. Nobody told us we needed to be there. From my understanding, they wanted a guarantee they weren’t going to lose any money, and we couldn’t give them that guarantee. They haven’t had a guarantee for the last 14 years. I don’t know why they have to have one now.”
Hanson said the rally board would prepare a statement once it has gathered all facts from the meeting. He said he had to talk to the rest of the rally board before deciding whether or not to present a new contract proposal, but his outlook was grim.
“We’ve already given them a contract,” Hanson said. “If they don’t want it, why are they going to take another one? It’s obvious there are three people on the board that do not want us to have the rally. We’ve done all we can do.”
The proposal would have paid the city $8,500 toward such city services as security, sanitation and trash pickup. The city counter-offered $8,500 when it rejected the rally board’s $7,500 contract proposal for the 2011 rally, leading to the rally’s cancellation.
Sturgis Mayor Walter Turner said the motion came after a specially called aldermen meeting on Feb. 16 where no action was taken but the rally was discussed. Alderman Wayne McCool made the motion to reject the contract, which was seconded by Alderman Amanda Paige. The motion passed in a 3-2 vote, with Aldermen Keith Parker and Collins against.
McCool said he made the motion to turn the contract down from a business perspective, and he elaborated when Turner asked what business concerns McCool had.
“There’s no way we can profit off of this,” McCool said. “We’re going to end up going in the hole. Most of your people come up here thinking they own Main Street, (but) they don’t go in the park. I don’t see any way the town doesn’t go in the hole over it. We’re put in here to make sure the town doesn’t go in the hole.”
Turner said the board needed to consider the number of businesses in town who get much of their business from rally participants.
“You can’t put a price on that,” Turner said. “We’re also put here to represent the best interest of the town.”
Paige said the risk of losing $8,500 to a rally board that would not be able to pay it back was too great. McCool then asked city attorney Rob Roberson about the likelihood of the city being able to successfully sue the rally board for that money in such an event. Roberson then said the rally board was likely to be “judgment proof” if it defaulted.
“Just because you have a judgment against somebody doesn’t mean you’re going to get paid,” Roberson said. “It would be a civil case, (so) you can have a judgment all you want, but if it ain’t there, it just ain’t there.”
Turner said the city has made an average of more than $5,000 from the rally over the past 13 years. In response, Paige said the average hides the losses of recent years, but Turner still said the city has never lost money on the rally.
Turner said he was disappointed in the board’s decision.
“I don’t think they were looking out for the best interests of the town; I really don’t,” Turner said. “In my mind, they wanted a guarantee that the town itself was going to make money. I couldn’t give them that guarantee. I could only talk about past experience.”
Paige said she and other board members talked to residents in town to gather public opinion on the rally. She said it would have been possible for a member of the rally board to change her mind if the member could have explained a plan to make the rally a financial success.
“We figured one of the members would be here to explain what their plan was,” Paige said. “We were just presented with figures, and you’ve got to make your own decision if you would risk the town’s money to put the rally on.”