On July 29, thousands of bicyclists will be cycling through West Liberty as part of the route for RAGBRAI.
Having West Liberty on the route was an agenda item of the Feb. 21 city council meeting.
The RAGBRAI committee approached the city about being on the route, City Clerk Lee Geertz told city council at the meeting.
“It’s a little difficult because it takes a village to manage this event,” Geertz said. “Historically, the city has partnered with the Chamber of Commerce to handle that.”
RAGBRAI is offering $5,000 to the community to assist with the cost of having the event come through the city, she added.
West Liberty Chamber of Commerce Director Charles Brooke said his board was excited to have RAGBRAI come through West Liberty but they had a lot of questions.
“Right now, its February,” Brooke said. “We just approved our budget. This was not in the budget at all.”
The $5,000 would definitely help but Brooke works part-time as the director, he said. Also, three out of the five main events the chamber has each year is held in July.
A committee has already been formed, Brooke added. He told city council hosting over 20,000 bicyclists would take a lot of work.
West Liberty Chamber of Commerce past president Kara Kruse told city council there are a couple of things they would like help from the city with. She said additional garbage cans would be needed, assistance with cleanup after RAGBRAI passes through and having additional restroom facilities.
“How did we do this last time?” Mayor Ethan Anderson asked Geertz.
Last time RAGBRAI came through was in 2018, Geertz said. There were two chairmen, who weren’t on the chamber board, which organized the committee and volunteers. The city agreed on the garbage, restrooms, having additional areas to get water, having signs put up and the streets. The city also collected vendor fees to help offset the additional cost.
Anderson asked Geertz what the financial impact was from RAGBRAI coming through in 2018. Geertz said the city didn’t count what the cost of the work the city employee’s did. The things that were counted were the revenue from the fees, which was just shy of $5,000.
The city gave the money from the vendor fees to the chamber but was told they can’t contribute to non-profit groups like the chamber, she added.
“I think that if council wants to proceed with committing to us being a pass through town then I think the next steps would be organizing that conversation with the chamber,” Geertz said. “We need to get two chairs for the committee and then we can discuss if the city for example collects the vendor costs for port-a-potties – things we did in the past.”
The $5,000 from the RAGBRAI committee could be set-aside for Brooke if he has to put in additional hours or additional costs for marketing, she added.
“I think that we would have to work through that budget together,” Geertz said.
This is doable but more discussion is needed, she added.
City councilmember Cara McFerren said a person would need to be appointed as the liaison between the city and the RAGBRAI committee. She also mentioned the last time the event came through town several groups and social service organizations that sold food sold out.
“I want to point out it’s really important to get people in the community to get on board ahead of time because if we as a city don’t do that and organize it, what’s going to happen is you’re going to have all these outside vendors come into West Liberty to set up to sell things, food or whatever it is and then our community not gain from it,” McFerren added.
City councilmember Dana Dominguez asked McFerren if vendor fees would be waived for West Liberty businesses. McFerren said she didn’t think they could do that because RAGBRAI would be charging the fees.
Geertz told Dominguez and McFerren this would be something they could address in the ordinance but first they would need to have people on the committee and two chairpersons depending on whether or not the city council approved West Liberty as part of the route.
Dominguez said having that amount of people come through West Liberty wasn’t an everyday thing.
City councilmember Omar Martinez said businesses would benefit from RAGBRAI coming through and would be for it.
RAGBRAI will give the city all the tools and resources they need to help, Geertz said.
“It really is up to all of us to put that chair and that co-chair and that committee together,” Geertz said.
West Liberty Police Chief Eric Werling said additional public safety officials would be needed to help direct traffic through town, bicyclists through town and for any medical emergencies that may happen.
Anderson asked Brooke if the chamber would take charge of the planning for RAGBRAI. Brooke said yes they would.
The city council approved unanimously for West Liberty to be on the route for this year.