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Grand Strand cities aid to Atlantic Beach may suppress Bikefest

March 3, 2009

Grand Strand cities aid to Atlantic Beach may suppress Bikefest
Offer of support comes with plea to take on rally
By Robert Morris

ATLANTIC BEACH — In a first shift away from a 30-year tradition, Atlantic Beach officials entered an agreement Monday night with Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Horry County that couples an array of aid for the small town with harsh language about the future of the Atlantic Beach Bikefest.

The Town Council also voted 3-1 not to take up an operating plan for the
motorcycle festival this year, drawing harsh reproach from Mayor Retha
Pierce.

“You just killed Bikefest,” Pierce said.

Technically, the Town Council has not yet done anything about its Bikefest, which annually draws more than 200,000 people to the Grand Strand. Town Manager Kenneth McIver said he will continue his discussions with managers of the surrounding governments and bring more details about the partnership arrangement to Atlantic Beach’s next meeting.

“We are still brainstorming ways to assist the town,” McIver said. “They are not contracts; they are not blueprints; they are talking points.”

According to a report McIver presented to the council, the other governments have offered help in the following areas:

Professional planners from one or more of the other entities will evaluate the town’s water, sewer and other infrastructure needs. They also will help the town through its next comprehensive planning process, which state law requires to be done every 10 years.

Planners will also help the town complete its zoning ordinances, a process begun two years ago but abandoned for lack of money.

Atlantic Beach police will be included in other agencies’ training programs, and those agencies also may expand police protection in Atlantic Beach, where the four-officer department does not provide 24-hour coverage.

Help will be offered with code enforcement, permits and property maintenance.

Other festivals to promote the town will be developed, and the other agencies will help seek grants for the town.

Financial assistance to reduce the town’s debt is “not off the table,” the agreement reads.

While no specific requests are made of Atlantic Beach, the Bikefest clearly will be an important part of the ongoing discussions.

“The cities urge Atlantic Beach Town Council to join with them in not promoting the Atlantic Beach Bike Festival in exchange for the assistance they will provide,” the document reads.

Pierce, who was chairwoman of the 2008 Bikefest committee and organized
a gathering of bikers on the front lawn of Town Hall last month, vigorously protested the agreement.

“We need to know what you’re giving away here,” Pierce said. “This mutual aid agreement is involving some money, and some of you know about it.”

The three other council members, however, gave little reply to Pierce before voting for the agreement. Council members Jake Evans and Charlene Taylor both stressed that an exact decision on Bikefest has yet to be made, while Councilman Donnell Thompson said the town stands to benefit from the other cities’ offers.

“These are things this town has been needing for a long, long time,” said Thompson, who left the meeting while Pierce was talking after the vote was taken.

About 20 people attended the meeting. Two representatives of biker groups criticized the decision, and two or three town residents criticized the council for their conduct.

“What does Myrtle Beach need to help you rezone?” asked resident Rosa
Stanley. “You haven’t got nothing to rezone.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 24, 2009 1:28 pm

    This is terrible. There’s no good reason why this event has to end just because of the aid being provided to Atlantic Beach.

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