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Charleston Tables Race Fee Proposal But Concerns Remain

Reported: Apr. 21, 2014 10:25 PM EDT
Updated: Apr. 21, 2014 10:44 PM EDT

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kera Mashek) A battle is continuing to brew here in the Capital City, over a proposed change for groups who hold distance runs. Right now, the city provides police officers to block off streets during those races, and it's a service the organizations holding those runs aren't charged for even though it costs the city $45,000 every year.

The measure to add fees to help the city offset those costs quickly drew a lot of fire from the dozens of groups who hold fundraising races here in Charleston, but in the past couple of days, an amendment was added to lower the proposed fees, which was approved by the finance committee Monday night. Then the whole motion was tabled by the full council. Even still, a lot of organizations are still nervous about such a big potential change to their budgets...

The West Virginia Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure brings in more than 6,000 runners from over a dozen states every year, and it's the single-biggest fundraising event by the organization.

But a proposal now tabled by the city council, for more consideration by the parks and recreation committee, is cause for Komen to be concerned.

"We want to pay for the police and street closures, that's fair, it's very black and white. Anything outside that is very gray and murky and that's what we're afraid of," said Rebecca Newhouse, WV Komen president.

The amended proposal, as it sits now, calls for minimum fees to be charged to any group holding a distance run in the city. To use the Kanawha Boulevard, the price would be $2200, and the other approved race courses would cost at least $500. The city says that's what it pays to staff the race courses with police officers, and block off traffic during a run.

"We want to put in place a mechanism whereby we can at least get some of our additional costs covered, so there's no excuses not to have these races and when council has to find places to cut--this will not be one of those areas that we cut," said David Molgaard, Charleston city manager.

But some organizations who sponsor smaller races say the costs don't add up.

"Last year, our fall race was at night. We had two police officers there, and they were there for about two hours. $500--that seems a little excesive for that kind of coverage," said Courtney Crabtree with Girls on the Run.

That might be enough to push several groups hold their runs in other cities, where they won't get charged an extra fee.

"We love having it here. It's the state capital and it's beautiful, so we love it and we certainly don't want to toss that to the wind, but we have to be good stewards of the monies we get," said Newhouse.

The city insists the race fees are necessary to help plug budget holes and that race organizers should be able to make up for the new proposed fee by charging runners more to participate, but organizations say it's hard to justify an added cost when race proceeds should be going directly to help a charity's cause, like funding cancer research. A higher entry fee could also discourage some people from participating altogether.

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