WILDWOOD — Morey’s Piers will move three of its major beach events — two Beach Blast soccer tournaments and the Beach Jam camping event — to neighboring Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood, respectively, if the city does not agree this week to a new beach-event fee plan developed with the island’s tourism authority, company President Will Morey said.
In a letter Saturday to Tom Byrne, chairman of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, Morey wrote that “despite your sincere efforts and the efforts of others, Wildwood appears not to be respecting the good-faith effort extended them but rather is pushing their position to the brink.”
Morey continued, “As you well know, we do not wish to move these events, as they have a very positive effect on the community of businesses with whom we share the boardwalk culture and tradition. That matters greatly to us.”
But, he added, “We simply cannot continue, however, to expose these events to the recklessness and stated indifference of the city of Wildwood government.”
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said Sunday that he understands the importance of the beach events, but the costs associated with them, such as beach maintenance and policing, are a burden on the city’s residents.
Environmental maintenance, for instance, which includes care of the beach, cost the city $649,000 in salaries and wages in 2012.
“We want to be a good neighbor. We want these events. We want our businesses to prosper. But there has to be some equity here,” Troiano said as he composed a response to Morey’s letter.
Wildwood instituted a fee schedule that requires beach event organizers to pay a rate of $4 per head for groups up to 500 people, $3 per head for groups of 501 to 1,500 people and $2 per head for groups of 1,500 people or more.
The tourism authority, along with the island’s mayors and business groups, has been working to come up with an alternate fee schedule that suits both the municipality and the event organizers who draw thousands to the island each year with their beach sporting events and other activities.
Byrne said Sunday morning that the tourism authority had developed a plan for 2014 with the goal of developing a long-term event support system for 2015.
Under the authority’s plan, “the city of Wildwood, instead of charging the promoters, would look to GWTIDA to reimburse the expenses in 2014,” Byrne said.
Byrne said then the authority would work with all of the island’s municipalities to come up with a more permanent arrangement to cover all of the events that strain municipal services.
He said the island’s businesses already pay a tourism development fee, and perhaps that could be reallocated to cover the additional costs.
The tourism development fees collected total about $600,000 to $700,000 each year for all of the Wildwoods.
Byrne said the authority’s position is that “Wildwood is the best venue for these events (the Beach Blast and Beach Jam).” He added, “We want to keep them on the island.”
Morey wrote that “the fees Morey’s Piers have been historically paying for many years do in fact more than cover the city for those expenses it incurs” and said the company was willingly to pay all documented event-related expenses as “we do not support the notion of public subsidies for privately owned or operated events.”
But Morey said he was surprised when Wildwood chose not to sign off on a compromise worked out by the authority.
“While we appreciate the city of Wildwood’s search for revenue sources, forcing themselves as virtual ‘financial partners’ on event promoters by way of event fees is not an appropriate role for government,” Morey wrote.
“I’m not anti-Morey. I’m not anti-events,” Troiano said Sunday, but he said Morey’s Piers had refused to sit down with the city to resolve the issue. “The city of Wildwood government is standing up for all its taxpayers.”
The city, which has yet to introduce its 2014 budget, is coping with a loss in property value following a revaluation. In 2013, the city was worth $1.541 billion. This year, Wildwood is worth $1.419 billion.
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