Future of Atlantic Beach Bike Fest unclear

ATLANTIC BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Hosting Atlantic Beach Bike Fest takes time, money, space and support -- all things some town leaders say are stacked against the future of the annual event.

On Monday, several Atlantic Beach leaders met with county and law enforcement officials to discuss the status of the annual event in the small Grand Strand town.

Right now, Atlantic Beach Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn Cole says there are no concrete plans in place to hold the rally and issue vendor permits. She says the absence of several council members has prevented officials from voting on the issue.

"The people of the Grand Strand and all of the law enforcement deserve to hear an answer," Cole said. "I think Councilman [Jake] Evans and Mayor [Retha] Pierce should attend their council meeting and do their civic duties. Otherwise, they should just give up their positions."

Public safety leaders in North Myrtle Beach and Briarcliffe Acres voiced several points of concern for this year's rally and how it will function. They say they're worried about traffic gridlocks on US-17, parking lot and street parties, noise complaints and how late entertainment performs and vendors operate.

North Myrtle Beach Public Safety Director Jay Fernandez says its time neighboring towns get an answer on the fate of this year's rally. More than 15 jurisdictions send police and traffic support to the North Strand each year.

Planning for that extra staffing doesn't come with the snap of a finger, either. That's why Fernandez says he's preparing for rally, despite a decision.

"We're preparing as if they are [happening]," he said. "Our chute is in place, our traffic control is in place. Our command post is going to be in place."

However, Fernandez said Monday it's what could happen if the rally is canceled that has him concerned.

"If [bikers] come and they don't know the event is canceled and show up that day, they're going to be frustrated," he said.

Fernandez says that frustration could put his public safety teams in potential danger.

"When it's canceled, they'll voice their concerns to the law enforcement officers on the street. Even though it's not their decision to cancel the event, they'll get the brunt of it," he added.

Several local leaders agreed Monday the town needs to come up with a system on how to publicize a cancellation of the rally, should it happen. But many say it's likely people will still ride into town on Memorial Day Weekend if the event is canned.

Questions were also raised Monday by local leaders regarding the alleged financial burden of the rallies on Atlantic Beach. Cole claimed Interim Town Manager Benny Webb reported the town would be billed for law enforcement assistance from Horry County and SLED in a recent financial committee meeting.

Horry County leaders present at Monday's meeting said the county has never billed Atlantic Beach for rally assistance and is unaware of any similar measure taking place for the 2012 event.

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