EF gets mixed reviews from officials, neighbors.

July 28, 2017

EF gets mixed reviews from officials, neighbors.

#EF2X17 #OceanaCountyNews #Rothbury

By Fred Inglis. Contributing Writer.

ROTHBURY — “Smooth.” That was the word often used by officials who were in charge of law enforcement for the Electric Forest Festival at the Double JJ Resort, June 22 through July 2.

Although, some neighbors do not describe the gigantic musical festival as being all that “smooth.”

This was the first year the Rothbury Village Council handled the Electric Forest after the resort annexed into the village. The huge event previously was overseen by the Grant Township Board.

The board held its monthly public meeting June 18 and received its first update and review of the event.

Rothbury Police Chief Thomas Hasper said the biggest arrest was an attempted theft of a Rothbury police car and aggravated assault of an officer but, “Overall it was a pretty smooth festival compared to years past.”

Michigan State Police First/Lt. Jeffrey White, commander of the Hart post, has worked every festival held at the Double JJ. It was originally called ROTHBURY until 2011 when Madison House Presents introduced the Electric Forest. This year was the first year EF turned it
from one four-day weekend into two four-day weekends.

“The cool weather, the rain was a tremendous benefit to us,” said White. “It was a much less energetic crowd than usual.”

Overall, the MSP investigated 140 original complaints during the two-weekend event. The prosecutor’s office prepared 27 warrants, including 13 felony counts.

The second weekend was less attended but required more police action. “The second festival was a much younger crowd,” said White. “They were less experienced.”

Director of Oceana County Emergency Services Lance Corey agreed that is was a smooth festival, except the extra four-day weekend made it extremely difficult for his employees and other agencies he hired to fulfill the needs of the festival and the rest of the community at large.

“It was taxing on our staff,” said Corey. “The challenge was to have two to three members on site at all time. Our staff would work 24-26 hours extra each week.”

Norm Halbower is part of the ownership of the Double JJ Resort, which rents the property to the promoters from Colorado. He was impressed with the cleanup that was completed in the 48 hours between the two weekends.

“I was amazed, I didn’t think they could do it,” said Halbower. “They not only contributed to their own success, but they contributed to the community as well. I applaud them.”

Grant Township Fire Chief Roland Brooks was in charge of fire protection and the parking lots. He said things went well considering the amount of rain and mud that caused traffic and parking issues.

Brooks also presented a couple of problems with the promoters. “They (Madison House Presents) tried to tell us how to run things,” said Brooks. “They tried to tell us how many people we were going to hire. I reminded them we own it, not them.”

Madison House Presents is responsible for all expenses, and this is the first time all the supervisors said their invoices were being questioned. “I’m fully prepared to justify all my expenses, said EMS Director Corey.

Several neighbors attended the meeting and inquired about the noise and trespassing.

Gerald and Betty Esch have lived on Meadow Lane for 39 years and have experienced every festival as neighbors. But the two-weekend format was too much, they said.

“I wear hearing aids,” said Gerald. “I take them out and I still hear the bass, thump, thump, thump. One night the ground shook.”

“We barely survived the second week,” said Betty. “They’ve got to do something about the level of noise. It keeps getting louder and louder as the night goes on. We never get to sleep.”

Judy Schultz has lived on West Wilke Road for more than 50 years, and her house is one of the closest to the venue. Her home is situated “right where they come in,” said Schultz. “My house is lit up from their lights all night long.”

“I’ve got trespassers every night,” added Schultz. “I feel invaded.”

Halbower apologized to the locals for any inconveniences, and said they’d try to minimize the noise any way they can.

The village is to receive $6 for each wristband sold for the first weekend festival (June 22-25) and $5 for each wristband sold in the second weekend (June 28 through July2).

Grant Township attorney Roger Sweeting said he saw several people at the festival without wristbands. The village trustees agreed that a better system of ticket accountability needs to be created.

Sweeting estimated that 37,500 people attended the first weekend and another 25,000 attended the second weekend. He said the village can expect to receive a check between $300,000 to $340,000.

The council says that money will result in a reduction in property taxes for village residents. But neither the Esch nor Schultz family live in the Rothbury village limits.

“I bought my house because it was in the country, and now this,” said Schultz. “I live in the township, but I don’t get a thing.”

Madison House Presents has not yet announced whether they intend to apply for another two-weekend mass gathering permit. Our inquiries to the promoters went unanswered. Sweeting believes they will decide within the next month.

There is no guarantee that such a request will be granted by the village. Village Clerk Carol Witzke said the promoters breached their contract when they failed to meet certain conditions.

“They have to finalize certain contracts 60 days prior to the event,” explained Witzke. “Some of those contracts didn’t get signed until days before the start of the festival. Those contracts include finalizing liability insurance, approval from liquor control, approval of site plan, and approval of fire department.”

We need to get things done on our side,” said Fire Chief Brooks. “If they delay things, then we can’t get ready.”

“As far as I’m concerned they don’t have a permit for next year,” added Witzke.

“We learned to live with one (weekend), and I know it makes a lot of money,” said Schultz. “But two is too much. Don’t be so greedy.”

The Rothbury Village meetings are held at the village hall on the third Tuesday of every month. The next meeting is set for August 15 at 7:30 p.m.

This story is copyrighted © 2017, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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