Berks

Reading 120 bicycle race in jeopardy after county pulls support

'We're going to do it,' says Reading mayor

Reading 120 race in jeopardy after...

READING, Pa. - A major bike race in Berks County is in jeopardy of being canceled this year.

The county will no longer provide sheriff or emergency services department resources for the popular Reading 120 bicycle race in 2017.

"I don't want to see it go away, but it can't be done the way it's been done the last two years," said Commissioner Kevin Barnhardt.

The county commissioners made the announcement shortly before a Reading City Council meeting Monday night, saying that they have also notified every municipality in the county.

The county cited ambiguities of the race’s organizers to continue the event.

"While this event has the potential to highlight Berks County in a very positive way, the unfortunate complexion of the situation at present is that the race organizers do not appear to have laid the necessary groundwork to ensure that a 2017 running of the race will be successful," the commissioners said in their statement.

The 122-mile race through Berks brings hundreds of cyclists and spectators from around the world, but behind the scenes, Barnhardt said it's a disaster.

"The first year, the logistics were worked out at the very bitter end, and even last year, some of the logistics were worked out the week before," he said.

In addition to the lack of organization, Barnhardt said it took a very long time for departments that worked the event to be paid.

"It took us months and months and months to get that money reimbursed to the sheriff's department," said Barnhardt. "The other municipalities, I know some of them requested for reimbursement and some of them struggled for months of not even a year the first time to get paid back."

The commissioners' letter stated that the organizers and participating municipalities will be solely responsible for the event's planning and logistics.

When 69 News pressed the race organizer, John Eustice, about the issue of delayed payments, this is how he responded:

"I don't want to rebut or get into that," said Eustice. "That's exactly what I'm trying to avoid is that kind of approach to this discussion."

Eustice said the race is in serious jeopardy, but there's still hope. 

If the mayor's office hadn't contacted us, I was gone, but the mayor's office is trying to pull us back together," he said.

"We're not going to die because they don't want to do it. We're moving ahead. We're going to do it," said Mayor Wally Scott. "We're going to do whatever we can to raise the funds for whatever's needed."

The race organizer also responded to the claims of disorganization. He said sometimes great things fall into place at the last minute, but they always work out.

“I’m disappointed in the county. It brought a lot of positive press to the county,” said Glenn Steckman, the city’s managing director.

 

Eustice and Scott will be meeting Wednesday to talk about how the race might be able to move forward.

The county's statement concluded: “It is our hope that in future years, this event will be reborn with a greater level of organization and extend support (financial and otherwise) so that we can all work to showcase Berks County in a positive light.”

Questions and concerns may be directed to Brian Gottschall, the county's director of emergency services, at 610-374-4800 or bgottschall@countyofberks.com.


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