Sturgis rally board, officials react to rejection

By Steven Nalley/Starkville Daily News

STURGIS — Representatives from the Sturgis South Motorcycle Rally Board and the city of Sturgis have varying perspectives on the reasons the latest rally contract was denied in a 3-2 vote this week.

The Sturgis Board of Aldermen rejected a rally board contract proposal which would have paid the city $8,500 toward such services as security, sanitation and trash pickup.

Alderman Wayne McCool made the motion to reject the contract, and his motion passed with McCool, Amanda Paige and Quinnia Yates in favor and Mike Collins and Keith Parker against.

Throughout Tuesday’s meeting, Paige, Yates and McCool raised concerns about the rally’s ability to make enough money to pay the $8,500 and prevent the city from losing money.

Sturgis Mayor Walter Turner refuted the three aldermen’s arguments, and he said he believed the contract would have worked.

“The main reason I believed it would work was because it has worked for 13 years in the past. The town is able to work with its budget and make adjustments even before the rally starts.

“For example, if we see there’s going to be a small crowd, we can cut back on the services — Porta-Potties, trash services and security. We can adjust before we even spend the money, before the rally. Even if there’s some risk involved, which is minimal, the town needs to look at the greater good for the whole community and the surrounding area, including Starkville,” Turner said.

Rally board vice president George Jones said the rally’s next move is uncertain. He said the contract needs to happen before April ends to make the 2012 rally happen, and if the rally does not return in 2012, it would be unfeasible for it to return later.

Jones said the vote did not surprise him because the three aldermen who rejected the contract have created difficulties for the rally over the last few years.

“They pretty much told us they were afraid they couldn’t get the $8,500,” Jones said. “Offering them more money if they think they can’t get the $8,500 wouldn’t work.

“We’re all under the impression that if they did not take the offer we offered them — which was their counteroffer last year — (then) the three that voted against it … just don’t want the rally, and there’s nothing we can do about it in the town of Sturgis.”

McCool said it is not true that he opposes the rally, nor was it true he wanted a guarantee the city would make money off the rally.

“We told Walter if we broke even, we were fine with it, but by the numbers he presented, there was no chance we would break even.

“What we we’re afraid of is we weren’t going to get enough to cover the expenses. They can only pay us if they make a profit. We have to foot the bill until it’s over with. I’m all for it if there’s a way it could be proved we could at least break even.

“I don’t believe the rally or the town will make enough in vendor fees or RV sales,” McCool said. “Last year, it was canceled. The attendance is not going to be like it was.”

McCool said he also disagreed with Turner’s claim that the city of Sturgis has never lost money on the rally.

“I can show you where we lost $3,500 last year,” McCool said.

Rally board President Donny Hanson said he supported Turner’s claim.

“The town has never lost any money on the rally,” Hanson said. “The rally board, on the other hand, has lost money a couple of years.

“The rally board has done everything it can do to keep the rally going, and we have run into roadblocks from the town board on everything we could have done. We’re the ones going out on a limb. It’s not them,” he said.

Organizers have said the rally, an Oktibbeha County staple for the last 14 years, has been a dependable source of revenue for local hotels and restaurants in Starkville, Louisville and Ackerman.

Click video to hear audio