HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – Bikefest 2017 plans are mostly status quo due to the extensive planning following Bikefest 2014, Horry County Emergency Management Director Randy Webster said.
"Look for almost the exact same footprint as last year," Webster said. "(It will be the) same locations for officers to be at, same with outside the city along the Restaurant Row area. We'll be there again just like last year. The loop will be the same."
All of the time spent at task force and community meetings before Bikefest 2015 is still paying off.
"Looking at each year, there's been an improvement in the safety side of it," Webster said. "Each year stands on its own. Right now, there's nothing to tell me that we need to go in any different direction."
Only two Bikefest Task Force meetings are scheduled this year, compared to monthly meetings in 2016.
"Since we're continuing on with where we left off, there's not a need to bring everybody in every month just to stand there and make sure everything is the same," Webster said.
However, Webster said individual agencies have been meeting to finalize their plans.
"Everybody understands what's at stake," he said. "We want to have a safe event. We want folks to have a great time, so part of that continual planning even on a subcommittee scale keeps everybody fresh and keeps everybody talking and keeps everything moving together so you do not get complacent and pull out the plan the week beforehand and say, 'Here we go.' That's a recipe for disaster."
The same traffic loop will be in place from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday to keep traffic moving.
"We do look at it each and every year to see if there does need to be a change or warrants a change," Webster said. "From what I've received back from the law enforcement side, they're happy to keep it the way it is."
Some upcoming improvements are to internal communications as well as traffic flow in and out of the Myrtle Beach International Airport during the loop times.
To fix the problems at the airport, signage will increase and additional people will be assigned to work with those at the airport and communicate with the emergency operations center and the law enforcement command center, according to Webster.
"We've taken some extra strides to help in communication, getting additional folks there to help make sure people can leave the airport on time, get into the airport on time, pick people up that need to go," he said.
Myrtle Beach Police Lt. Joey Crosby said planning started right after Bikefest last year for this year's event and it will continue until Bikefest 2017 begins.
"I think anytime the city has a special event, we do a good job critiquing that event and seeing how can we improve and make things better," Crosby said. "Each and every year, for every event, we do that to determine do we need additional resources, is there extra equipment, notifying the public a little bit better about how the road closures may be affecting them."
According to Crosby, the department has been having meetings to go through operations from last year and figure out what needs to be improved upon.
He said letters were sent out over the winter to other law enforcement agencies requesting their assistance with Bikefest. The MBPD is getting those letters back now from departments saying they'll be sending officers this way.
At the last city council meeting, Assistant Chief Amy Prock said additional signage will go up within communities and also on the U.S. 17 Bypass and Harrelson Boulevard to help with airport traffic.
She said an officer who works with taxis throughout the year will be assigned to the airport to help with the traffic loop as well.
Prock also mentioned plans to have information lines this year, which someone can call to get information instead of those calls going to dispatch.
At Tuesday night's Horry County Council meeting, a woman giving public comment suggested the county consider defunding financial support for extra police during Bikefest as one way to pressure the city of Myrtle Beach to make accommodations for county residents to park along the beach.
Councilman Dennis DiSabato said withholding public safety resources isn't a viable option. He added there are other options, but he can't talk about them right now.
DiSabato said people should hear more about what the county's options are when Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus goes to Myrtle Beach City Council's next meeting on Tuesday.
At that city council meeting, Lazarus plans to ask once again for the $100 non-resident parking pass for Myrtle Beach to be used in all metered locations in the city and include the Golden Mile, county spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said.