MEREDITH — The Board of Selectmen this week tabled a proposal to levy a fee on vendors during Laconia Motorcycle Week when it met with resistance from Laconia Harley-Davidson, Hart's Turkey Farm restaurant and the American Police Motorcycle Museum, the major hosts to vendors during the rally. The earliest fees could now be introduced in the town would be 2017.
Following the precedent of Laconia, the ordinance would require all transient vendors, other than non-profit organizations soliciting donations toward a charitable purpose, to be licensed by the town at a fee of $450, 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 would be liable to a fine of failure to obtain a license would carry a fine of up to $500 for each day of unlawful operation.
Town Manager Phil 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 (LMWA). Revenues amounted to $660, which represented special use permits issued to Laconia Harley-Davidson and Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant at $330 apiece. The license fees, he said, were intended to offset the cost to the town of providing police and safety services for the event.
Anne Deli, president of Laconia Harley-Davidson, warned that if the town levied a vendor fee "we will lose vendors" and asked "does Meredith really want to put one more nail in the coffin of Motorcycle Week."
She explained that the dealership doubles its payroll to 150 during the rally, stressing that all but 30 of the employees are residents of the Lakes Region. Deli said that since she and her husband acquired the business in 2008, it has contributed more than $225,000 to local and regional charities.The dealership, she said, paid for hotel rooms in Meredith and a per diem food allowance for those 30 employees. In addition, Deli said that the company invests about $220,000 a year providing the infrastructure and marketing for Motorcycle Week, but collects $145,000 in rents from vendors. She said that vendor fees have not been increased because "vendors would go elsewhere," adding there are many competitors for vendors "ready to pounce on us".
Deli said that if vendors fees sapped income from the dealership, the costs would have to be upset by reducing employment, charitable contributions or marketing expenses, all of which would adversely impact the rally itself.
Doug Frederick of the museum said that he offers space without charge to non-profit organizations and veterans' groups. He said that they are welcome to make donations to the museum, but rent — let alone a $450 licensing fee — would be a significant burden to small operators. He noted that their presence at the site is not intended as a source of income but as an added attraction that draws visitors to the museum.
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