Beaufort News

Bachmann's Saturday event moved to Bluffton's Promenade

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., will still speak in Bluffton this week, but not at Buckwalter Place after the original organizers canceled the event due to the threat of thunderstorms.

Bachmann, a potential presidential candidate and tea party favorite, will instead speak at the Promenade on S.C. 46 and Calhoun Street on Saturday from 3-5 p.m.

Lauren Martel, a Hilton Head Island-based attorney and Hilton Head TEA Party member, took over sponsorship of the event and secured a special events permit Tuesday from the town of Bluffton.

"I believe the message she has is so important we had to make this work," Martel said.

The original organizers, Thomas Viljac and Kimberly Tatro, withdrew because they said they feared the weather would hamper turnout. The vendors slated to provide food for the estimated thousands of guests would be taking a financial risk if it got rained out, they said.

Bluffton's special events policy required Viljac and Tatro to buy insurance and pay for Bluffton police officers to handle security and traffic control. According to the town's policy, that would cost $35 an hour per police officer for a minimum of three hours.

"To make back the money to pay the police officers and all the other expenses from the event, we had to make sure there was a big attendance," Tatro, president of the Lowcountry Business Circle, said. "With the storms coming in, we decided to err on the side of caution rather than take the chance."

Martel, who said she is paying for the event with her tax return, has cut down its scope. There will be no vendors and no inflatable kids' zone, for example.

Martel said the event is a non-partisan, voter registration event celebrating the right to vote.

At Tuesday night's council meeting, Viljac of Bluffton's Old Town Dispensary, resigned from his positions on two Bluffton boards -- the Historical Preservation Society and the Affordable Housing Subcommittee -- out of what he said was frustration that Martel was allowed to host the event in old town while he wasn't. He had originally planned the event for that area.

Viljac said he began the special events application process last month.

Martel managed to secure her's after applying Monday evening, Martel said.

"The sequence of events astounded me on decision-making in this town," Viljac told council. "I just can't walk through town doors anymore."

Mayor Lisa Sulka declined to accept his resignation and said town staff and council members would meet with him to resolve the issue.