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Sturgis voters end city manager role, reject motorcycle race contract

Sturgis voters have rejected a contract with a company that wants to bring a race to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally while also approving a major change to city government.

In municipal elections Tuesday, residents of Sturgis voted by a wide margin to reject the current contract with AMA Pro Racing for a motorcycle race through the community.

City communications director Deb Holland said that vote doesn’t necessarily mean the death of the proposal.

“It’s unclear how we move forward I guess, and at this point we’re just in a holding pattern," Holland said. "It was a split vote on the race anyways.”

While the public vote was a wide margin, 1,031 opposition votes to 437 pro votes, there are some members of the city council who are also opposed to the idea. That includes ward 4 councilor Kevin Forrester.

“It doesn’t surprise me that the vote was such a landslide," Forrester said. "The America Flat Track, in some of their public meetings, had indicated that if it went not in their favor they had intended to try and work on this. With that in mind, the city council needs to ask themselves was the vote against the contract, or was it against the race as a whole?”

There are other proposals for a race that doesn’t run directly through downtown Sturgis, namely hosting the event at the popular Buffalo Chip Campground.

Forrester said regardless of public opinion on the race, there are some financial questions orbiting the contract as written.

“At $653,000, before we started factoring in what the cities add to that in the form of staff time from our legal department, from our public works department, from law enforcement – all of it – our break-even point was somewhere closer to $750,000 or even $800,000," Forrester said. "That left some questions there.”

Representatives from AMA Pro did not return a request for comment.

Meanwhile, as part of the Sturgis municipal election, residents voted to eliminate the city manager position from local government.

This comes after a group successfully petitioned to get the issue on the ballot, arguing the position took away authority from elected officials.

Holland said it’s no small change.

“The mayor talks about what it’s going to take to implement changes,' Holland said. "There are like 157 references to city manager in our ordinances and policies. So, like she said, it’s a daunting task.”

Holland said the change will come following the next council meeting.

“Immediately following the canvas when those votes become official, the City of Sturgis will change from an aldermanic form of government where we had a city manager, to an aldermanic form with a mayor who is now the chief executive officer,” Holland said.

Sturgis had used the city manager format for the past 17 years.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture