MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Memorial Day weekend has arrived and bikefest has officially started; that means a lot of bikers and a lot of law enforcement are on the Grand Strand.
And that law enforcement comes at quite a price; the city of Myrtle Beach spends nearly a million dollars on extra public safety costs over Memorial Day weekend.
To put that in perspective, it’s more than the city pays in overtime to police officers in an entire year; the total overtime expenditure for police for the year in 2016 was $894,772.
“Safety is the top priority,” explained city spokesperson, Mark Kruea, “in years past this event has been measured by the number of accidents, shootings and deaths; and we don’t want that to be the case this year.”
To get a handle on the violence and traffic issues that plagued the 2014 Memorial Day weekend, a taskforce was formed and the plan has been implemented the past two years.
“The bike week task force looked at the traffic problems looked at the challenges,” said Kruea, “it occurs on Ocean Boulevard, it’s a car and pedestrian sort of event that is in the wee hours of the morning, so the bike week task force created the bike loop to keep traffic moving.”
Between manning the loop and policing the event, more than 500 extra officers are brought in and all city staff remain on the clock during the weekend.
All told, Memorial Day weekend cost the city $968,475 in 2016, which was up from $873,848 in 2015.
“They were higher than I expected them to be,” Kruea said of the high costs of public safety for one four day weekend.
And those numbers are after subtracting the cost of traffic barriers, cameras and other pieces of equipment used at other special events throughout the year.
“We spend a tremendous amount of money making sure everyone is safe,” said Kruea, who added that the city spends more money on public safety during memorial day weekend, than the revenue it takes in.
“It is an expensive proposition, the city won’t begin to recover that. It is just money that we’re spending to make sure everyone is safe and having a good time,” said Kruea.
Additional operations include paying for local and outside police, and support staff, professional fees, a per diem for officers, and $94,626 in miscellaneous costs.
“We won’t recover that money, no,” remarked Kruea on a price the city will continue to pay for the foreseeable future.
“We have to handle the traffic, it is happening, it’s not really organized; so we need to provide some organization to it,” explained Kruea.
Event organizers expect about 500,000 bikers to visit the Myrtle Beach area during bikefest.