Ohio Bike Week planners hope discussion and compromise will extinguish concerns about pyrotechnics and open flames during this year's events.
Event planners Steve Ernst and Julie Roeder discussed bike week events with township trustees, police and fire department officials Tuesday to open the door for collaboration on events requiring township support. Some officials expressed concerns that providing services for Bike Week might throw them over their budgets.
Ohio Bike Week, scheduled for June 1-10, is an annual Sandusky event that grows each year. Last year, Bike Week attracted at least 25,000 motorcycle enthusiasts and is considered a mini Sturgis. The deafening roar of motorcycle engines fills the air and rattles windows for days as enthusiasts enjoy drives around Lake Erie and patronize local venues.
A number of activities related to the event are held at the Erie County Fairgrounds, where many bikers camp out. Fireworks, propane blasts and bonfires are planned for the fairgrounds and for the first-night event at Roeder Harley-Davidson on Milan Road.
The bonfires alone concern the township.
"A third of our budget could be chewed up in a week for the whole year," said Bill Hodges, assistant Perkins fire chief.
Hodges told trustees that estimate only includes manning the bonfire at the fairgrounds. It does not include other expenses the township would incur.
Each night of having a fire engine on site at the fairgrounds will cost $150 an hour. Manning that engine will cost $30 an hour for a class A firefighter, $32.99 for a Lieutenant and $36.29 for a Captain per hour. The cost of having the engine and at least two firefighters on site per night would be at least $3,000 in overtime for the 10-day period. Roeder's has agreed to underwrite the expense of the fire department's presence at the bonfire and other pyrotechnic events.
Ernst and Roeder have been in contact with Perkins Fire Department's Inspector Gary Guendelsberger to make sure fire concerns are addressed at the fairgrounds. They've decided there will be no ground campfires at the fairgrounds. Cooking fire, such as grills, will be allowed.
Guendelsberger has to sign-off on pyrotechnic permits for the events with firework displays, including opening day at Roeder's and a concert in the fair arena.
"When your signature is on the pyrotechnic form, you're going to be responsible should something go wrong and being in that boat concerns me," he said. "I'd like to avoid that."
Ernst, Roeder, township fire and police are organizing a meeting to discuss what type of pyrotechnic products should be used and how to best provide a safe environment during each display.
Hodges said he didn't want anyone to misunderstand the he or the township are against the event.
"I am in favor of what you are doing," he said. "As long as things are taken care of, I hope this succeeds."
Last year, all of the week's events totaled about a dozen hours of overtime for Perkins Police Department who will being working with Ernst and Roeder on traffic concerns and self-imposed quiet hours.