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Kure Beach Addresses $240 Triathlon Invoice Dispute

The Town of Kure Beach received numerous emails from the public asking them not to jeopardize the future of the Kure Beach Double Sprint Triathlon which just held it's 15th annual event in June. The Town responded Friday issuing a statement via email.

Managing Editor

KURE BEACH, NC - The Town of Kure Beach responded to numerous emails, nearly 30 on Thursday July 26, received from people expressing support for the long-running Kure Beach Double Sprint Triathlon. Numerous people emailed varying degrees of support for the event and criticism of the council following an earlier meeting in July where the Council voted to send another invoice to the event organizers asking them  to pay the remaining $240 balance to the Town for services such as police, fire and public works. The event organizers took issue with several items on the original bill and have yet to pay the full invoice.
Here's the statement   from the Town issued last week:
Thank you for taking the time to let us know that you enjoy coming to Kure Beach to participate in the annual triathlon. The Town, as always, welcomes you.
The total fees that the Town of Kure Beach charged for this year's triathlon were $1,860.00. Mr. Scott [The event organizer] has not paid $240 of that bill. At the July Town Council meeting, Mr. Scott discussed with the Council his position that the Town was charging excessive fees for his event. He was directed to put in his application for next year's event, so that the Council could work with him on reaching agreement to prevent this issue from occurring again. Additionally, Council directed staff to re-invoice Set Up Events for the remaining $240.
In 2010, the Town charged $2,250 for the event and in 2011, the Town charged $2,400.
The fees actually went down in 2012. Surveys of other venues that Mr. Scott's organization has operated in, show that regionally (Myrtle Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington, Raleigh), Kure Beach charges significantly less for this event than similar events.
The Town Council is open to working with Mr. Scott in hosting next year's event. For the first seven years of the event, the Town charged nothing, with the citizen's bearing the cost of a for profit company's event. Since the Town began charging in 2007, it has only charged the Town's costs of the event. The Town Council will utilize the public safety professionals (Police Chief, Fire Chief and Public Works Director) to define the necessary staffing for the event and will charge for staffing requirements based on what the Town's adopted Fee Schedule rates require.
Kure Beach has a history of providing a welcoming atmosphere to all visitors by providing lifeguard coverage, professional and courteous police and fire personnel and a family friendly atmosphere. The fees charged to for profit organizations are in line with other communities in our area and are in almost all cases lower than other communities. The total fees for the Sprint Triathlon are not only reasonable, but in 2012 were lower than the previous two years. This in a year when the citizens of Kure Beach experienced a tax increase due to the financial requirements of the Town.
The Town Council certainly hopes this will be resolved by Set Up Events, because the Town in no way wishes to impact future triathlons.
The Town Council of Kure Beach
Local resident and event organizer Bill Scott spoke to the Council at their July 19, meeting.  He said they've been putting on the event since 1997.
He said, "I'm here tonight because of a $240 charge that we disputed on an invoice that came into us. But that is $240 of an invoice that started at $4,000 and ended up going down to $1,850 dollars. When I got wind of the invoice that we received, it called for 40 policeman hours to support this triathlon. The race starts at 7am, finishes at 9:30am Saturday morning. It crosses Fort Fisher Blvd in one location. We had Avenue K. closed right here. Dow Road was closed down. We were being charged 40 policeman hours. Not only that, we were being charged $65 an hour."
He said the typical charge for other Towns is around $30 per hour. He said, "$25 per hour for vehicles. We are never charged per hour for vehicles. Sometimes we are charged a one time $25 fee for police vehicles."
He said, "I was upset" and some employees would attest to that when he stormed into their offices asking about the invoice.
He said, "It ended up being a meeting of about 5 or 6 people, Tuesday of race week" in early June and, "The following day I received an invoice for half of the $4,000. Magically 20 hours disappeared. In our opinion we need seven and a half hours of policeman hours... but we were still charged for 20 and still $65 per hour. We also had a $250 tent inspection fee for a big tent we were putting up for the sports fest. Not only the triathlon, but the sports fest that weekend. A big 30' by 50' tent. $250. New Hanover County charges $45. Every other community we deal with, $50. In that range."
Scott explained they were also charged for two firemen to sit in the fire department for six hours each during the event. He said, "The revised invoice came back and that was cut down to two firemen for three hours each. That's the disputed charge. The reason for that being is, the only reason firemen, to my knowledge, were going to be at that fire station was, my original plan because of the work that was done on the parking lot at the park where we always had the transition area which is the bike racks that are fenced in... that would have caused runners and bikers to cross over the driveway going into the fire department. However, when we refused to pay the tent inspection fee, we decided we were not going to put the tent up, not paying $250. The tent was going to be on the baseball field. That was the only thing that would be on the baseball field. I went to John [building inspector] and said we now want to move the transition area over to the baseball field. We had it for the weekend anyway. That would eliminate the problem with access to the fire department."
He said, "It's not fair we should have to pay the two firemen for three hours each when we never had to pay that for 15 years before an in the exact same location."
Scott said, "I think Council needs to decide what its approach is going to be for special events on a whole. Because I think as a community that relies on tourism, you've got a big opportunity to bring special events in. You're not going to bring them in charging these kind of prices. I promise you."
He called it gouging events and this was beyond paying a fair share. He said some things need to change before they come back next year, or they'll move the race elsewhere.
Councilman David Heglar said he understands being upset about a charge coming up, "But as I told your representative earlier this year, this should have been worked out way earlier. Waiting until the end caused problems on both sides. The second issue I heard was you said it yourself just then, "We don't think that's what we need."
Heglar said, "That's not your call. The department heads are paid by the Town to protect the public interest. If the fire chief and the police chief say this is what we need, you can decide whether you like that or not but it's not your decision on what is needed for the Town. That's what we hired them for."
Heglar said, "If the fire chief says this is what the Town needs for proper protection of the citizens, then you as a business owner you can either comply or go somewhere else. So my first point to you is, working further ahead, this should have all been worked out."
He explained, "You should have given your plan to the department heads and the department heads should have said here are our expectations and you should have worked around that without this big hoopla."
Heglar said when he first heard of the event in March, it should have all been worked out much earlier rather than later.
Scott debated when the event was first approved saying it was earlier than Heglar indicated. Heglar said the dates should have been, "Firmed up and all of this should have been worked out way in advance."
Scott said it's always been the last week in June and the Council asked them to move the event up to the beginning of June.
Heglar said he couldn't believe larger Towns would operate on such short order as in Kure Beach.
Heglar said, "You're representative said you're helping our businesses, our hotel owners. That's not the feedback they give me. And going on your website, you didn't advertise a single one of our businesses on it."
Scott said, "We had all of your hotels on there."
Heglar said the only hotel he noticed on their website was the Holiday Inn Express in Wilmington.
Another representative said in event details sent to participants, local hotels were listed.
Heglar said, "I don't like for us to fight with business owners in the Town either. But, the business owners... have to realize those guys are the ones that make the call on what's done for the Town and then the business owners can decide if that fits their business model or not."
He said, "I'm certainly supportive of businesses in Kure Beach" and he heard from a number of people at work and in the community appreciated the event and said it went well.
Heglar said the Council voted to implement the tent inspection fee. He said, "If this isn't worked out then at least from this end of the Council I wouldn't vote to let you do it again next year if you wanted to."
Scott said they want to submit their application for next year immediately, "And ask the Town to give us a ruling by September 1st, whether or not you want us to come back or not and agree to all of the charges." That would give them time to move the event somewhere else.
Heglar said, "I think both sides feel there are some issues and we need to work those out before moving forward."
Fire Chief Harold Heglar said with roads blocked off during the event, "If we have a fire call, our volunteers come to the station to get trucks, only one person on duty at a time. Rather than have 15 volunteers coming up K Avenue or wherever" including streets where people were running in the event, "Then for safety purposes, two people added to drive three
vehicles to the scene, they only have to get out one time and I instructed all of the firemen and volunteers to go to the fire and not the station and during that time they had all of their turnout gear and everything with them" so they wouldn't have to rush to the station in their cars with 500 people running on community streets. Generally they respond to the station first, but were directed that day to respond to any scene first.
He said, "What we charged for two firemen was not unreasonable."
Scott said for 15 years it was not an issue. Councilman Heglar said in the last two years the Town has improved it's fire response efforts and that's a factor towards improving their fire insurance rating.
Councilman Heglar said, "You are getting a pretty good deal for your event. That's my point. So the citizens of Kure Beach, they can't drive down Dow Road. What we offer for you is an event for your venue right? And your making $35,000 gross and you have to pay all of your fees... this is a small charge of that." He said $2,100 dollars or $1,800 is a deal for what you are getting out of it in my opinion."
He said, "If you don't like what you're paying police officers per person, I understand that but the total cost to your business for your venue is very reasonable in my opinion."
Scott said they paid the City of Wilmington $50,000 for the Beach to the Battleship event but said in his opinion they are paying for to many hours to the Town of Kure Beach for 20 police hours.
He repeated his threat that by September they need to know whether or not they will hold the event somewhere else.
Ultimately it was restated the argument is over a $240 outstanding balance.
Ultimately the Council voted unanimously to send another invoice to Scott for the outstanding amount and it will be discussed again in September.
Councilman Chuck Keener said it's a matter that needs to be resolved before their next application is submitted before approving the next event for 2013.
Heglar said, "You wouldn't let me off my water bill right?"

The following is a copy of the email sent out by Bill Scott regarding the issue following the July Council meeting:

Subject: Kure Beach Double Sprint Triathlon – e-mail (7/26)
Folks – we need your help. We’re trying to salvage the Kure Beach Double Sprint Triathlon. This is an iconic event in the Inside-Out Sports NCTS. In 2012 we held the race for the sixteenth consecutive year. Kure Beach was the very first triathlon in the U.S. to offer up the unusual format; swim, run, bike, run, swim.  The race has capped out at 500 participants for the past ten years (we only had 480 in 2012).
But the Town of Kure Beach is considering denying our race application for 2013.
This year, when all the planning was said and done, and with only two weeks to go before race day, we received an invoice from the town of Kure Beach for more than twice the amount of what we are normally charged for their services (park rental, police support, etc).  In reviewing the invoice it was very clear that there were some trumped up charges included.
During the July Town Council meeting, I went before Council to dispute these charges and to let them know that they were out of line with anything we have paid in the past and also much higher than fees we pay in other communities in which we produce races.  Please understand, Set Up Events never expects to get services for free and is always willing to pay its fair share.  The fees charged to us by Kure Beach, however were WAY more than any reasonable person would consider as "fair share".  I have asked the town to reconsider the fees paid, not only for this year, but for coming years.
Here’s where we could really use your support. The race brings 500 people to Kure Beach every year – many of you stay in Kure Beach hotels/motels, eat at Big Daddy’s, or Jack Mackarels, or Freddie’s. The race brings a lot of economic impact to this sleepy little beach town whose main industry is tourism. That was my bottom line message to Town Council on 7/19 – “if special events are important to the Town, you need to make some changes or you won’t attract any events.” Event producers simply won’t be able to afford to bring their events to Kure Beach.
I really need some folks to send an e-mail to the members of the Kure Beach Town Council showing your support for the race. If you stay in Kure on race weekend please mention that in your e-mail.  Your e-mails may go a long way towards convincing Kure Beach Town Council members that the Kure Beach Double Sprint Triathlon is an important economic boost to the local economy each year.
Here are the e-mail addresses for the five Kure Beach Town Council members.
(Please BCC me on the e-mails)
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Thanks very much for your help.
Bill Scott
Set Up Events

Click here to view the emails sent to the Town by numerous interested parties. (PDF File requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view)