LACONIA — A tug-of-war between the Weirs Action Committee, and the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association has erupted over the right to operate the parking concession at the lot in Endicott Rock Park during the 94th running of Motorcycle Week next June. This week both organizations pitched competing bids for the concession to the Parks and Recreation Commission, which tabled the matter until its next meeting in August.
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. Beset with financial challenges, the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association now eyes the parking concession as an opportunity to raise funds.
"I'm not aware that two groups have asked to use the same facility at the same time before," Kevin Dunleavy, director of parks and recreation, told the five Parks and Recreation commissioners. Although the commission hears facility use requests in the first instance, it must refer those seeking to raise funds in excess of $2,000 to the City Council for final approval.
When Mitch Hamel, who chairs the commission, asked if the two organizations had discussed sharing the concession, Joe Driscoll III, speaking for the Weirs Action Committee, replied that there have been no formal conversations.
Speaking for the committee, Joe Driscoll III emphasized that the parking concession has been its principal source of funds. "The money raised goes right back into the city," he said. "Mostly into The Weirs, but also to other city departments. He told the commission the committee is the official sponsor of Endicott Rock State Park and contributed the statue of "Captain Jack," the Native American atop the rock. In addition, he said that the committee purchased the gazebo in the park, landscaped the roundabout, partners with the city in recycling, maintains the Weirs Beach sign and plants hanging baskets every summer.
Driscoll III called the committee "a group of volunteers, a community organization giving back to the community," and said "We would like to keep on doing what we've been doing for 21 years."
Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, explained that its mission is to promote and organize the rally and "make it profitable for the businesses that want to take part in it." He said that a number of nonprofit organizations, including the Weirs Action Committee, benefit from the rally, "but I haven't seen the businesses and nonprofits offer to invest in promoting Motorcycle Week. They all profit from what the association does."
Cynthia Makris of the Naswa Resort, the president of the association and member of the Weirs Action Committee, echoed St. Clair. "A lot of money is made off of Motorcycle Week," she said. "We all make money. Yet no one contributes to the event." She reminded the commission that the Weirs Action Committee left the association, then, referring to the parking concession, added "but they make that money because of Motorcycle Week."
Makris told the commission that funding from sponsorships has diminished as the number of motorcycle rallies has grown to close to 700 nationally. The association, she continued, is continuing to seek more financial support from the state, but must also explore other means of raising money, like the parking concession.
Judy Krahulec, a longtime member and past president of the committee, told the Parks and Recreation Commission that the rift between the two organizations opened amid a dispute over the membership of the Weirs Action Committee in the association. She said that when the association found itself in debt it raised the membership dues. "The whole discussion began when the Weirs Action Committee was asked to pay $5,000," she said."That's when the rumors that they were going after the parking began."
Krahulec's recollection is confirmed by minutes of meetings of the board of directors of the association in 2014. At the time, the board consisted of representatives of the city of Laconia, town of Meredith, Naswa Resort, Laconia Roadhouse, Half Moon Enterprises, attorney Matt Lahey, South End Media, Hot Leathers Inc. and the Weirs Action Committee. In the summer of 2014, the directors decided to raise the membership dues from $2,000 to $5,000 a year to address its financial problems.
The Weirs Action Committee balked. In August, Joe Driscoll, Driscoll III's father, who represented the committee on the board of the association, told the directors that the committee would not pay more than $3,000. Although the committee declined to pay the increased dues, Driscoll remained on the board, serving as its vice president.
When the board met at the Naswa resort on the morning of Oct. 9, 2014, the issue of membership dues was left in limbo, but he parking concession came to the fore. Rich Ray of Faro's Italian Grille, representing the Laconia Roadhouse, asked how the parking concession was awarded, and was recorded to have said "It could be a possible revenue source for the association to pursue." Driscoll said that if the Weirs Action Committee lost the parking concession "It would kill their association."
After a lengthy discussion, the board agreed to revisit the question of dues at its meeting by considering a fee of $3,000 for nonprofit members on the understanding stated in the minutes that "if the board does not allow WAC to contribute $3,000 for dues, then WAC would no longer be a member of the board and the Association would potentially apply to use some or all of the lot for the 2016 rally."
When the minutes were circulated, Jennifer Anderson, the director of the association and secretary of the board, attached a note reading "This was a very lengthy meeting with a lot of discussion. There was a minor issue related to the Weirs Action Committee that is discussed in the minutes but what isn't mentioned in the minutes is that Joe Driscoll did leave the meeting abruptly due to this heated discussion."
Although the minutes do not record Driscoll leaving the meeting, neither do they mention him after his response to the prospect of the Weirs Action Committee losing the parking concession.
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