By STEVEN NALLEY
Leaders and police from Starkville and Sturgis are investigating options for Starkville to lend its law enforcement services to Sturgis’ motorcycle rally as an in-kind service.
On Tuesday night, the Sturgis Board of Aldermen voted to rescind a March 6 vote rejecting the Sturgis South Bike Rally Board’s contract offer of $8,500 toward such city services as security, sanitation and trash pickup. The decision puts the contract back on the table without the city accepting it, and Alderman Mike Collins, who made the motion, said it also gives Sturgis time to explore options for Starkville to provide assistance.
Both Sturgis Mayor Walter Turner and Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman confirmed Wednesday morning they had begun to discuss these options. Turner said he currently plans to meet with police chiefs from Starkville and Sturgis, which may or may not lead to subsequent meetings.
“(Wiseman) can’t just give us money,” Turner said, “and I understand that, but he may be able to provide police service.”
Wiseman said such an internal meeting involving mayors and city staff would not be a public meeting, but any action Starkville might take on the matter would require the Starkville Board of Aldermen’s approval in a public meeting.
“What we’ll do right now is we’re going to determine what, if anything, might be legal and practical,” Wiseman said. “Right now, we’re researching the legality associated with what is possible with providing police security across jurisdictional lines. Once we’ve made a conclusion on those subjects, in the event that we are in a position to help provide in-kind services, then I will make steps to put that before the Starkville Board of Aldermen so that they can make a policy decision on the matter.”
Rally board officials have previously said they must complete negotiations with the city of Sturgis before the end of April to hold a 2012 rally. Wiseman said it is too early to say whether or not the two cities can meet this deadline.
“I can tell you we will work diligently towards that end,” Wiseman said. “Right now, we don’t know what we’re working with yet. I can’t tell you how long it would take us to determine what, if anything, is possible.”
Before the Sturgis city board rescinded its March 6 vote, one of the objections to that vote raised at Tuesday’s meeting came from Bonnie Iperigne. The city has saved money from past rallies, she said, and $50,000 of it has been earmarked for a new community center.
“Who’s going to rent the center?” Iperigne said.
Sturgis Alderman Amanda Paige said she made the motion to earmark $50,000 from the rally fund to add on to a pavilion at the city park, transforming it into a community center. She said the development could make the park a destination for family reunions, class reunions or other events.
“We want the park to be used for more than just the motorcycle rally,” Paige said.
Turner said he espouses a different option for a Sturgis community center. He said he wants the city to revamp the Sturgis Presbyterian Church.
“It was given to the city to be a community center in the previous administration,” Turner said. “(Some of the aldermen have) been against me all the time on this Presbyterian church.”
Paige said she and other aldermen have objected to Turner’s suggestion because an engineer the city hired to examine the church reported costs greater than the $50,000 earmark just to stabilize the church’s floor, let alone revamp the entire building. She said the engineer recommended pursuing a historic landmark designation for the church, restoring it with a grant.
“We have not been able to get that grant as of yet,” Paige said. “We don’t want anything to happen to (the church). We just can’t spend that amount of money to fix it.”