Tour of Missouri to go ahead; funds released by Nixon

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nearly a week after freezing funds for the Tour of Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday the release of $1.5 million allocated by the Missouri Tourism Commission for the cross-state bicycle race.

The event's funding came into question Thursday when the Department of Economic Development identified $9.9 million in cuts. In a statement issued from his office, Nixon said the tour's operations came under scrutiny before he agreed to release the funds.

"The race will go on this year, and Missourians deserve to know that state funds for the event are used transparently and accountably," Nixon said. "They should know precisely how money for the Tour of Missouri is being spent and that the event is being run in a way that minimizes the cost to taxpayers."

A representative of Nixon's budget office met with officials from the Division of Tourism, the Department of Economic Development and Tour of Missouri Inc., the not-for-profit corporation that holds rights to the name and other aspects of the race.

Bob Smith, interim director of the Division of Tourism, said the group provided budgets, spending plans and the original agreements between the Division of Tourism and the Hawthorn Foundation, the original organizer of the tour.

"It is apparent that we satisfied his needs," Smith said of Nixon.

During a conference call to reporters and event supporters, Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said he was not apologetic about his support for the event. Kinder, chairman of the Missouri Tourism Commission, takes a high-profile role in promoting the race and dedicates staff time from the lieutenant governor's office to the tour.

"We have always been transparent, completely transparent," said Kinder, a Republican from Cape Girardeau.

The event's budget allocates $3.04 million in expenses, including $1.1 million in executive fees for management and accounting. It also provides $3.05 million in revenue, which includes $63,000 in team entry fees.

The statewide race will stop in Cape Girardeau on Sept. 8. Locally, organizers have raised $40,000 for the event, said Tracey Glenn, vice president for organization and leadership development at the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce. Glenn, who chairs the local organizing committee, said the committee will have to raise between $20,000 and $40,000 more for the event as it continues to find volunteers and sponsorship.

The committee's next focus will be the route of the race through the city. She said planners are looking for a finish in the downtown area.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said the race's economic impact on communities like Cape Girardeau factored into the governor's decision. In tough economic times, he said it was Nixon's responsibility to make sure taxpayers got a return on their investment.

"It was absolutely acceptable to look at all areas where he could potentially cut funding," he said. "For the governor not to realize this as a potential opportunity to cut expenses would not have been responsible on his part."

Area volunteers will continue to prepare for the event, said Chris Moore, president of the Velo Girardeau bicycling club.

"We were dismayed when the governor said he was going to withhold funding and we were tickled to death today when he changed his mind," Moore said.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Jefferson City, MO

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