Laconia Motorcycle Week Association protests Parks and Rec’s decision
By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Faced with two competing requests to operate the parking concession at Endicott Rock Park during Motorcycle Week next year, the city Parks and Recreation Department this week unanimously chose the Weirs Action Committee over the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association in a decision that will require the approval of the City Council.
The Weirs Action Committee has operated the concession for the past 21 years, parking some 1,200 motorcycles each day and raising between $25,000 and $30,000 annually to fund its projects, both permanent and seasonal, to beautify The Weirs. This year, the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, beset with financial challenges, also bid for the concession.
The requests were first presented in July, when the commission tabled the matter after urging both parties to seek a mutually agreeable arrangement. When the commission returned to the issue this week, Mitch Hamel, who chairs the commission, was told there had been no conversations about sharing the concession. Instead, nearly 20 members of the Weirs Action Committee were on hand to press their claim.
Speaking for the committee, Joe Driscoll III reminded the commissioners that the parking concession has been its principal source of funds and every dollar has been invested in The Weirs or contributed to city departments.
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, said many of the projects on the agenda of the Weirs Action Committee were being undertaken by the city with funds from the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District recently established at The Weirs. He said the revenue the Weirs Action Committee receives from the parking concession, along with the income enjoyed by property and business owners at The Weirs, reflects the association's investment in marketing the rally. Without a secure source of funding, he said the revenue from the parking concession would contribute to the association's $200,000 marketing budget.
Driscoll said that the Weirs Action Committee has "a long list of future projects" that would not be funded by tax increment financing. At the same time, Judy Krahulec, a past president of the Weirs Action Committee, said that without the revenue from the parking concession, the cost of annual projects, like floral displays, would fall to the city.
Reading from a prepared statement, City Councilor Brenda Baer reminded the commission that after the rally foundered in the 1960s, the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association revived it, and since then attendance has grown from 38,000 to 350,000.
"The business owners at The Weirs have done nothing but benefit from this event," she said. "They have withdrawn their support from the association and called it the worst-run event and should go under."
Baer reminded the commission that a year ago, when the council granted the parking concession to the Weirs Action Committee, Mayor Ed Engler "noted that the parking lot is city property and the city is not gaining any revenue and feels some of that money should be going back to Motorcycle Week."
One elderly lady recalled being told years ago that The Weirs had to take care of itself, because it could not expect anything from the city. Another called The Weirs "the city's cash cow," adding that the neighborhood receives scant support from the city. And another warned "If we don't get that parking lot, we're done" and urged the commission to "keep the Weirs Action Committee going."
Krahulec chided the association for failing to persuade the New Hampshire Legislature to introduce a commemorative license plate that she estimated would raise $670,000 to fund the association.
"They should have pounded the legislature," she said, adding "They should get off their keisters."
After the vote, Commissioner Tony Pedrzani again urged the two organizations to reach a compromise. "A bite of the apple is better than no apple at all."
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