LAKE PLACID - State police, Ironman triathlon organizers, the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau and other local leaders are in discussions regarding who should foot the bill for state police overtime incurred at future Ironman races.
State police Capt. Michael Girard said the overtime costs from last year's Ironman weekend totaled approximately $53,000, which came out of the state police budget. That includes having troopers control traffic on the more than 50-mile course that runs through Keene, Upper Jay, Jay and Wilmington while patrolling the rest of the North Country as well.
"Major Rick Smith (the state police Troop B commander) has met with the Ironman organizers, and he's trying to get them to pay for 50 percent of overtime costs for this year, 75 percent for 2010 and then, going forward, anytime in the future, have them pay all the overtime pay for the state police," Girard said.
A state trooper on a motorcycle follows a triathlete in the marathon portion of the 2008 Ironman Lake Placid Triathlon.
(Enterprise file photo — Lou Reuter)
In contrast, state Sen. Betty Little's director of communications, Dan Mac Entee, said he had heard the issue of payment for this year had been resolved.
"(Little) said she spoke twice with Superintendent Harry Corbitt of the state police. She talked about the Ironman and the issue of overtime this year," Mac Entee said. "Subsequent of these conversations, it is our understanding that Ironman will not be charged this year for overtime. There was nothing budgeted for it, and the Ironman is obviously a very important economic generator for the North Country. So it was important that the event be able to proceed with the help of the state police, as it has in years past.
"I think Betty is understanding of the fact that the organizers of the Ironman should sit down and talk about (overtime payment for) future years. The state police, as with all state agencies, is coming under greater financial pressure due to the state fiscal crisis."
State Assemblywoman Theresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, whose district includes the Ironman route, said forcing Ironman to pay for police overtime would be unfair.
"Since the Ironman brings so much economic benefit to the people in upstate New York, I think the state should pay for it," Sayward said. "I could see it being a 50-50 deal, but beyond that I think the state should pay for it. State police are very often at parades - at any big event that happens in the state - for traffic control. Why should Ironman be any different?"
Ironman Race Director Jeff Edwards, of Lake Placid, was tight-lipped regarding what he described as "ongoing discussions."
"It's customary in Ironman locations to have the local infrastructure provide a variety of services, including police coverage," Edwards said. "Ironman, the state police and the Lake Placid Visitors Bureau are currently in discussions right now for the planning of the race. Those discussions are ongoing, and I'm sure something beneficial will come out of those discussions."
Jon Lundin, the communications director for the Visitors Bureau, was similarly noncommittal.
"We're still discussing as it relates to this year and then moving forward," Lundin said. "It's a different economic state than what we've had in past years. At this point, it's too premature to say" who should pay for overtime.
James McKenna, the president and CEO of the Visitors Bureau, said "the rumor mill (is) starting to flow" on the subject of who might pay for police overtime. With that in mind, he scheduled a press conference on the subject today that was quickly cancelled due to scheduling conflicts.
"Our position is that the return the state gets more than covers the cost," McKenna said this morning. He said studies have shown that the more than 2,000 Ironman athletes and their supporters spend between $9 million and $10 million a year in the Lake Placid area, which at 7.75 sales tax generates about $700,000 for the state and Essex County. That's a return of about 14 times the state police overtime cost, he said.
The Ironman USA Lake Placid Triathlon is scheduled to take place for the 11th straight summer on Sunday, July 26.
Canadian Graham Fraser first introduced the Ironman race to Lake Placid, and until this year, he headed the corporation that owned the rights to the annual race here, as well as other Ironman- and half-Ironman-distance events across the United States. Fraser's company was called North American Sports.
In January of this year, the World Triathlon Corporation, which owns the "Ironman" trademark, purchased Fraser's North American Sports, which gave the Florida-based company ownership of all Ironman races worldwide, including the World Championships in Hawaii. In all, the World Triathlon Corporation stages more than 50 events across the globe each year.
In addition to Lake Placid, North American Sports also owned Ironman races in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; Wisconsin; Florida; and Arizona, as well as half-Ironman distance events in California and Florida, before the company was sold. Fraser continues to own the annual Ironman Canada race in Penticton, British Columbia.
The World Triathlon Corporation is owned by Providence Equity Partners. A story published in September 2008 in the Tampa Bay Business Journal stated the World Triathlon Corporation's total sales of licensed Ironman products, including races, was about $500 million in 2007. The company did not reveal its cut of that.
Enterprise Senior Sports Writer Lou Reuter contributed to this report.