Lt. Dan Weekend organizers seek reduction in city's bill

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 24, 2013 

Organizers of the Lt. Dan Weekend challenged a bill from the city of Beaufort for police and other services, arguing they should get a discount because the event wasn't as well-attended as anticipated.

But the city -- which already had given the organization that runs the festival a $10,000 accommodations-tax grant and a $4,400 break on fees for using the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park after a public plea last August -- doesn't seem to agree.

"If I called (someone) and said would you cater a dinner party, and he says how many are coming, and I say a lot, and he prepares a lot of food and only a few people come, you still have to pay the caterer," Mayor Billy Keyserling said. "And that's what's happened."

Lt. Dan Weekend is conducted by the Independence Fund and benefits the Wounded Warrior project. It brings wounded veterans to the Lowcountry for a week of relaxation and activities. The 2012 event included concerts Sept. 14 and 15. Proceeds pay for medical equipment for veterans, such as specialized wheelchairs.

Fund representatives met Jan. 4 with city clerk and events coordinator Ivette Burgess after it was billed $11,023 for police and other services. The city agreed to reduce the charges to $4,610, but the Independence Fund asked again for a discount.

Deeming the charge for police service on the Friday night of last year's event "excessive," the Independence Fund noted that night's crowd had fewer than 800 people -- including veterans and volunteers -- and most of the police should have been sent home early. Organizers added in a letter to the city that it was "shocked" by the bill for public-works services.

"These men did a great job in support of LDW3, but we had no idea of the charges that were being made without any upfront coordination with Bob Newman (Lt. Dan Weekend park activity coordinator)," the letter said.

Festival volunteers were available to work, but were never asked to, so the Independence Fund requested "that some part of this misunderstanding ... be absorbed by the city of Beaufort," according to the letter.

City Council discussed the appeal during a work session Tuesday but took no action.

"If we don't reconsider it, we don't reconsider it," Keyserling said. "We don't have to vote to make a decision."

Dick Clarke, Lt. Dan Weekend 3 director of operations, said he wrote the letter on behalf of the fund, but was not surprised at the city's costs himself -- in fact, he signed the contract with the city.

"I knew there were going to be expenses," he said. "The invoice that was provided just after Christmas was in the neighborhood of what I thought it would be."

Clarke said his job is to try to keep costs down so more money can be used to help veterans, but if no more reductions are available, the fund will pay the bill.

"They were in fact doing services, providing legitimate, necessary services for us, and they invoiced for us, as they should do," he said. "But some of those services we probably could have done ourselves, but we didn't know the cash register was clicking."

The weekend raised about $200,000, he said, half of which went to expenses and the other half toward therapy and equipment for veterans. Another $100,000 of in-kind donations was raised for things such as lodging, food and transportation for the veterans.

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