It’s Your Money: May bike events cost the Grand Strand millions of dollars

Updated: May. 28, 2019 at 7:55 PM EDT
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NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Local police agencies rely on outside help during Memorial Day weekend to handle Bikefest traffic in addition to holiday tourists.

This additional help comes with a cost.

Between North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach and Horry County, Bikefest is estimated to cost local agencies around $2.5 million.

“If it was our festival it would not be occurring over Memorial Day weekend, pure and simple. But it’s not our festival, it’s Atlantic Beach’s festival, so we have to make it as manageable as possible for everyone,” said North Myrtle Beach spokesperson Pat Dowling.

Dowling said the large event is made more difficult for the city because it is so traffic oriented.

“Traffic gridlock is the worst thing you can have happen in your city with this type of diverse crowd in town,” he said. “If you can keep it moving and people can get to their destination, albeit slower than normal, then you have less chance for people acting out, getting angry, doing things they’ll regret down the road.”

To keep traffic manageable, the city requested the help of more than 200 officers this year.

The city was responsible for feeding and housing 147 officers from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the S.C. Highway Patrol.

Dowling said the city also has an agreement with more than 16 agencies across the state, from Charleston to Columbia to Greenville. The city had to pay the salaries and an additional $35 to the 56 out-of-town officers.

Dowling said the city spends an average of $350,000 to $375,000 each year on the May bike events.

He said without the additional help the city would be “sunk.”

“There’s no way you can have a police department with 50 officers who are on rotating shifts handle the type of crowd we had,” Dowling said.

The Horry County Police Department said it requested 45 officers from state agencies for additional help.

“We assign a state officer to ride with our officer so that way we have two officers per vehicle and it kind of gives us an extra officer safety aspect there,” explained Horry County Police Capt. Stan Strickland.

Strickland said the department works with other cities to see where help might be needed in order to help manage crowds and traffic.

Horry County officials, like North Myrtle Beach, said Bikefest is the only event they request assistance from state law enforcement officers.

‘Whenever the public needs our services, we try to provide that as quickly as possible. That’s our main goal anytime we request outside resources is just to allow us to respond to calls for service faster,” Strickland said, “So, if we put officers in the area where the increase call volume are then obviously they can get there quicker.”

The county pays for the additional officers’ meals each day but is not responsible for their salaries.

Horry County said it spent around $553,000 in 2018 and $648,000 in 2017, but does not have estimates for this year yet.

The expenses paid for wages and benefits for EMS and police. Police and EMS clocked more than 12,000 regular and overtime hours in 2018.

The funds also covered equipment and related supplies.

Myrtle Beach had a budget of $1.5 million this year. The estimate is around $400,000 higher than last year and $200,000 than what the event cost in 2017.

The city doesn’t know the final cost for this year’s event and said it is likely the event will come out under budget.

Myrtle Beach also said balancing the needs for May events has been a work in progress each year and they continue to tweak things each year.

According the city budget, the police department is only requesting $1 million for next year’s May bike events.

Here’s a breakdown of the $1.5 million budgeted for this year’s May events:

  • $600,160: Services including message board, light tower, golf cart rentals and event staff
  • $400,000: Overtime
  • $350,000: Billboard supplies like cones, barricades and road signs
  • $150,000: Training
  • $54,240: Retirement
  • $30,600: Federal Insurance Contributions Acts tax

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