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Kure Beach Council Discusses Future Triathlon Event Fees

The Kure Beach Town Council voted August 15, to continue charging existing approved fees for events to the Annual Kure Beach Triathlon less some fees for lifeguard vehicles.

Managing Editor

KURE BEACH - The Kure Beach Town Council voted last week to require the organizers of the annual Kure Beach Triathlon to pay an outstanding balance to the Town as well as discuss event related fees prior to permitting the 2013 event.
The organizers must pay the remaining $240 owed to the Town by August 31, in order to apply for a permit to hold the 2013 event.
This year's event was held on June 2 marking the 15th year holding the event in Kure Beach.
In July 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.
Bill Scott - of Setup Events - wrote to event participants in an email, "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)."
He explained, " 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."
He asked people in his letter to email the Town showing support for the event.
The Town received some 72 emails expressing support.
In a response to those emails the Town issued a statement, "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."
At the August 15, Council meeting Councilman David Heglar said he met with Scott following the July meeting to discuss Town fees.
Heglar said there are four ways to deal with the issue. He said the best way is for everyone to work through the issue and continue having the event in the future. He said, "Option two is, the Town not have a triathlon."
He said, "Option three would be the Town and Setup go their separate ways and the Town working with a charity could have some similar type of event. Option four could be the Town working with one of Mr. Scott's competitors to have a triathlon or something similar."
Heglar said the best option is to work out the issues.
He said he hoped the Town and Mr. Scott can reach a consensus on the fees set by the Council.
The Council sets event fees at budget time for all events wishing to be held in Kure Beach.
He said, "Council can at their will set fees anyway they want to. Mr. Scott's concern is that some of our fees are high compared to other Towns. I understand that concern, but that's not a staff issue, that's a council issue. Council sets the fees."
Heglar said Town staff in public works, police and fire departments are responsible to evaluate a requests to hold events, "Use their professional judgment to figure out how they staff that and then apply the fees that the council has set to that requirement."
Fees include items such as policeman hours, charges for number of hours Town vehicles are required, lifeguards, tent fees and others.
Heglar said a permit for the 2012 event came in and staff calculated what resources would be required of the Town in order to bill Mr. Scott based on fees set by the Council.
Heglar said there was some confusion this year because the Parks and Recreation Department scheduled some events on the following day. He said, "I think that caused problems for everyone" and that for the next event to indicate items solely for the triathlon.
He said the previous three years the event directly paid lifeguards and this year the Town changed that so Scott would pay the Town. That addressed liability concerns.
Heglar said for next years event, no fee has been established by Council yet for use of the soon to be completed Oceanfront Park downtown. That fee will be decided at a later date.
The Town presented an invoice for the next 2013 event in the amount of $2,424.00.
Mr. Scott explained, "I guess the question I would ask is on the vehicles. We had obviously stated our desire not to have to pay for the vehicles. I'm wondering why next year we would have 12 police hours of support but have 32 hours of police car support?" The finance director said that included five lifeguard vehicles.
Scott said, "That was our contention from day one, when you lump the vehicles on top of the $40 per hour, you're back up to the $65 per hours police support, and in this case lifeguard support, which is substantially more than what we pay anywhere else. That was our contention coming in from day one. The amount of money per hour that we are having to pay for police support with the cars."
Scott said for the tent permit, "We didn't feel like we wanted to pay the $250 tent permit based on the fact that other communities in the area charge $50 for a tent permit."
He said, "Lifeguards are fine."
Heglar said, "Our concern was, if a lifeguard was to get hurt, they are still town employees but they are working off the clock and are they covered? We want them to be covered" and if hurt the Town wanted workman’s compensation to cover those employees.
Scott said, "We have no problem with that."
He said, "Our main concerns on this are the per hour police charge when you include the vehicle charge in there and we would ask that Council consider giving us a break on that."
Councilman Chuck Keener said he feels the vehicle charges are in line with the adopted fees. He said, "We've had an opportunity due to all these problems to go back and look at all of these charges. Some have not been applied and some have been waived and now we have something in black and white that are the fees we need to be charging. This is what we will do from now on and not have this conflict as to" what should be charged.
Council member Emilie Swearingen asked to be recused because of a family conflict.
Councilman Heglar asked if Scott was asking the Town for relief from the adopted fees or to change the fees across the board.
Scott explained that in other communities they charge higher rates for movie studios filming and lower rates for event promoters.
He said the fees for police support are double what they pay anywhere else.
Councilman Steve Pagley said, "I think we keep the fees the way they are for Setup Events right now. We'll discuss our fees next year or at a different meeting. But I think these fees are fair."
One member of the audience said the event is important to the economy of Kure Beach and it's strange to argue over fees per police vehicles.
Councilman Heglar said, "I think the Council does consider that. We raised your taxes. These fees haven't gone up since 2010, in fact they haven't gone up since 2006. So when we we're looking at how to close your budget, because you live here, we didn't raise any of these fees. The Town didn't start any of this issue. The Town charged, in fact, this year was less than the previous two years by $500."
Scott said, "I wonder why that is? It's actually $800 dollars less than we had last year... why is it we were charged $2,400 last year and the fee went down for comparable services to $1,600 in 2012. A 33% drop."
Scott said, "It was explained as a simple accounting error."
Police Chief Dennis Cooper explained, "Because we were having to include somethings that I was planning on having Sunday" and, "That's where the mistake was made."
Scott argued the Sunday events were a separate event for the Town.
Heglar said he wasn't involved last year, but now he's involved and the proper fees will be applied. He said, "I would almost say, shame on the staff for letting it go down where it did. I don't know that that's right."
Heglar said when Council is, "Raising the taxes on citizens, each event should pay for itself" and if the argument is the Town's charging too much for vehicles, "I'm willing to talk about that. If you're argument is well, you know, you charged me less this year because I came in with the mayor and raised cane with the department heads, that doesn't resonate with me at all." He said staff should examine a request and apply the appropriate fees for Town resources.
He said, "If the request is, and the Council needs to decide, this is my position, and I think commissioner Pagley spoke already, are we willing to review the fees and are we fine with where they are and if we are, we should say this is the Town's offer to do the fee."
He said, "You as a for-profit organization have to decide if that meets your needs or not. I think it's better for you and the Town to do it again here, but if you decide it's not, then the Town has another decision to make. It's options 2, 3, or 4."
Heglar said if Council wants to change the approved fees, that's a topic for future discussion.
Councilman Keener took issue with the email sent out by Scott saying he was charged double by the Town. He said that was incorrect and he wants it corrected by notifying those he emailed.
Scott said, "I'm going back to the original $3,900 invoice that was changed down to $1,860 of which $240 was disputed." He said the original $3,900 invoice was, "Explained to you folks as a simple accounting error and our contention is it was not a simple accounting error. Our contention is it was intentional."
Keener said, "You wrote this to all you participants after the race and at that time you were only being charged $1,860 and that certainly wasn't double the year before. And that's incorrect."
Scott called the original invoice, "Trumped up charges" which were, "Explained away as a simple accounting error" that can't actually be explained away.
Keener made a motion to not issue a future permit to Scott until he corrects his previous statement emailed to event participant which Keener contends is false.
Scott said, "You would have accepted a $3,900 dollar check from us if I had not intercepted it and I guarantee you I would have never gotten a penny of that back. If we had written that $3,900 check and you had cashed it, I guarantee you we would not have gotten a credit because of a simple accounting error being found."
One resident in the audience took issue with Scott's statement saying, "The integrity of our Town means a lot. We don't have thieves in our Town. If they made a mistake and you gave them a check, they would be more than happy to refund you the money. That's how they work."
The Council voted to use the current fee schedule without change other than the cost for the use of smaller motorized vehicles for lifeguards.
The Council voted unanimously.
The Town will change the number of lifeguard vehicles and send a permit application to Scott for the 2013 event as well as the existing approved event fee schedule.