After a week of public debate, Moline aldermen Tuesday reversed last week’s decision and voted to provide police protection for the Bi-State Motorcycle Awareness Ride.
The council also voted to have the Bi-State Motorcycle Council pay the costs of the additional police protection for the May ride, which is estimated to be about $1,400.
The vote was taken at the committee-of-the-whole meeting. A final vote will be taken at next week’s regular council meeting.
Aldermen voted not to provide the police protection last week after Police Chief Gary Francque raised concerns about public safety and traffic tie-ups caused by the number of riders. About 2,000 to 3,000 riders are expected to participate.
Tuesday’s vote means roads and intersections will be closed for the May 5 ride.
Several dozen motorcyclists were at the meeting to show their support for the awareness ride.
"I’m very happy with the city’s decision to provide police protection for our ride," said Mike John, spokesman for A.B.A.T.E., a motorcycle education and awareness organization that participates in the ride. "The cost — we’ll get the funds raised."
The group’s biggest concern was getting a secure route to prevent any accidents or injuries during the ride, Mr. John said.
Ald. Bill Adams, 5th Ward, asked that the city be sure to discuss details of the ride well in advance next year, so any changes can be made before the issue comes to aldermen for a vote.
"That in fact has happened already," Mayor Don Welvaert said. "After this ride is over everybody is going to sit down."
The police chiefs from all the cities involved in the ride — Davenport, Rock Island, Moline and East Moline — will meet to discuss problem areas during this year’s ride, Mayor Welvaert said. They also will meet with representatives from the Bi-State Motorcycle Council.
"It’s an enormous event," Mayor Welvaert said. "It’s grown to such proportions we need to sit down and talk about some changes in how the event is run."
Ald. Mike Crotty, 6th Ward, said he was in favor of waiving the fee for the police protection because the cost increased from $700 last year to $1,400 this year.
"I think it was a blindside a bit to the motorcycle club," he said. "I really feel we should just waive it this year and give them an opportunity to find their own funding source."
Ald. Dick Potter, 4th Ward, and Ald. Kent Breech, at-large, agreed with Ald. Crotty.
"I’m glad that they decided to provide us coverage," said Keith Turner, of A.B.A.T.E. "I wish they would have listened a little more to Ald. Crotty. For them to double the price doesn’t seem fair."
In other business, council members voted in favor of spending $26,000 to study whether a hotel would be feasible in University Square, the 15-acre property owned by Moline adjacent to the site for the riverfront campus of Western Illinois University’s proposed Quad-Cities campus.
The study will be done in two phases. The first phase, which costs $5,500, will determine whether a hotel is feasible on the site and if so, what kind of hotel could be feasible, said Ray Forsythe, Moline’s economic development director. The second phase takes an in-depth look at whether the specified hotel would be economically feasible on the site. If a hotel is not deemed feasible in the first phase, the study will be halted, Mr. Forsythe said.
Ald. Michael Carton, 2nd Ward, voted against the study.
"I don’t think taxpayers should have to pay for a study a private business will benefit from," he said.