St. Clair Board of Aldermen Monday night denied a request to hold a burnout contest and “dyno pull” as part of an annual car show event.
For the past two years, the St. Clair Area Chamber of Commerce has hosted a Route 66 Car Show on Main Street that features a Show Me Burnout Contest and dyno pulls held in the center of town. The aldermen approved the street closure for the car show, however, denied the request to hold the contest and the pulls.
A burnout is keeping a vehicle stationary while spinning its wheels causing the tires to heat up and smoke from the friction. A dyno pull is used to measure the power of a vehicle.
City Administrator Travis Dierker said the city’s insurance provider, MIRMA, does not cover events regarding burnouts and dyno pulls.
“After speaking with MIRMA representatives while they were in town last week, their recommendation was to not allow this on city property because it’s a gambling act when it comes to city property and the potential for the city to face some type of lawsuit is there,” Dierker said.
He added that MIRMA representatives asked if the burnouts and pulls could take place on private property. Dierker said event workers in the past “have done an excellent job keeping it as safe as possible. There’s been no major incidents in the past, but again there is that potential (lawsuit) that has to be considered.”
Chamber Vice President Tim Davis asked what has changed to where these events are not allowed on city property anymore.
“From our perspective is that we didn’t know better in the past,” Mayor Ron Blum. “We know better now.”
Dierker added that MIRMA has had large claims for different scenarios and part of the city’s evaluation is following the provider’s rules and guidelines, which include not hosting events that are not covered.
“The list of events (to host) are getting shorter and shorter,” Davis said. “We have a lot of car shows, but none of them bring the attention this one does.”
He added that other neighboring cities will be doing burnout contests this summer because of St. Clair. Davis asked if he could meet with MIRMA representatives to better explain the event and negotiate a deal. Dierker agreed that Davis could speak to a representative.
Blum stated his concerns about the possibility of a car breaking apart during a burnout.
“I don’t know how you can guarantee somebody to stop the burnout or whatever at a particular time and know for a fact that there’s not going to be a tire that breaks loose,” Blum said.
Davis replied that he does not know if that would happen or not just as he would not know if someone was going to have a wreck on the road.
“Our risk carrier will not defend us or cover us in an event like this,” Blum said. “It’s gambling the taxpayer funds.”
Charlene Saling, executive director of the Chamber, said although the Chamber does not have insurance, an event insurance policy is taken out that has a $5 million aggregate coverage.
“I understand your position, I appreciate that, but I just can’t see why that there isn’t some room for negotiation whenever we see other cities that are doing the very same things,” she said.
Blum asked if the burnouts and pulls can be done on private property.
“We’re hoping that the city would be able to work with us simply because this is an economic development project. That was the way it was designed,” Saling said. “Our merchants downtown appreciate the fact that the city and the Chamber have worked together to drive income into those places that are not normally open on a Sunday.”
She added that there’s not an event like the car show and Show Me Burnouts that bring a lot of activity to Main Street since the eclipse in 2017. Saling said the Chamber has other options for holding the event, but questioned if it would serve the same purpose.
“Our mission statement is to drive economic development and to support our businesses, community and activities,” Saling said. “We’re not going to be able to support our mission statement just as you aren’t, so I failed to understand how we can’t work together in some way.”
Dierker said not to interpret this as the city not wanting to work with the Chamber because the board will allow the street closure for the car show. He added the Chamber’s $5 million event coverage would not be enough if someone were to sue for $10 million. The city would have to pay for the remaining $5 million.
“Even if we win that lawsuit case, we probably would have $1/2 a million in defense coverage that we have to expend for that event,” Dierker said.
“It aches me just as much to sit here and say ‘No I don’t think we can have it.’ ” “I can’t lay my head down at night knowing if I were to allow an event that could possibly bankrupt the city.”
Alderman Greg Talleur said if the city gets hit with a lawsuit, Missouri does not have a limit on personal injury awards. He added that the city has $1.6 million in general reserves and those funds could deteriorate over a short period of time if a lawsuit were to happen.
“The $1.6 million in reserves is something that you’re all paying for ... We have to look out for the dollars that everybody in the community spends,” Talleur said.
“Surely, the handful of $1,000 or whatever the economic development impact or loss would be for not having this event could not offset the difference in a personal injury that we could incur.”
Alderman Amanda Sikes said the board’s decision is not a popular one or an easy one to make because her family has enjoyed the event in years past. Aldermen Art and Janet Viehland reiterated concerns addressed by Dierker and Blum.