MEREDITH —Instituting fees for vendors wanting to sell goods or food during the annual Motorcycle Week may go to the residents of Meredith to decide. Selectmen invited the public to give their input at their regular meeting on Monday, Jan. 4, at 4:30 p.m. If the proposal proceeds as planned, an article would be placed on the warrant for Town Meeting in March.
Following the precedent set by Laconia, the ordinance would require all transient vendors, other than nonprofit organizations soliciting donations toward a charitable purpose, to be licensed by the town at a fee of $450 generally and $500 for food services for the entire event, which would entitle them to operate from noon on the first Friday until midnight on the last Sunday of the rally. Vendors operating without a license could be fined up to $500 for each day of unlawful operation.
The board has been weighing the issue of vendor fees since August, when it tabled a proposal in the teeth of stiff opposition from Laconia Harley-Davidson and Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant, the two major hosts of vendors during the rally. Anne Deli, president of Laconia Harley-Davidson, warned "We will lose vendors" at that time, and asked "Does Meredith really want to put one more nail in the coffin of Motorcycle Week?"
The proposal was revived during a budget workshop earlier this month and the public hearing was announced when the board met this week. Town Manager Phil Warren explained that following the hearing the selectmen will decide whether or not to recommend a warrant article authorizing the town to collect vendor fees to Town Meeting. He said that although the selectmen may have the authority to adopt an ordinance, legal counsel has suggested a vote of Town Meeting "would be the cleanest way to do it."
This week, Warren told the board that all municipalities hosting motorcycle rallies collect vendor fees to defray the cost of public services, primarily police patrols, fire protection, medical services and trash collection. He explained that as Laconia Motorcycle Week has become more of a regional event, the costs to Meredith of deploying additional police and fire personnel has grown.
In August, Warren told the board that this year the town incurred expenses of $18,017 during the event, which consisted of $7,149 for police overtime, $5,868 for fire service and $5,000 in dues for the town's membership in the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. Revenues amounted to $660, which represented special use permits issued to Laconia Harley-Davidson and Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant at $330 apiece.
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