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After Brunswick balks, Freeport Half Marathon organizer is running out of options

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After Brunswick balks, Freeport Half Marathon organizer is running out of options

BRUNSWICK — Police say the second Freeport Half Marathon will not happen in Brunswick this August, but the event's organizer still says it will.

Organizer Dean Reinke met with police on Wednesday in an effort to convince them to sanction the event.

"The police and I agreed to disagree, but please remember, the police do not issue permits, which they acknowledged," Reinke said in an email after he meeting.  "They have no problem with the course per se ... they provided their input."

But Police Department Capt. Mark Waltz said that to run the event on town streets without police involvement would be illegal.

"It's obviously a road hazard," he said.

Waltz said the decision to deny Reinke the permit stemmed from a combination of factors, including the lack of a well-developed site plan that included adequate parking and bathrooms.

"The chief (of police) was also concerned about his lack of financial capacity to be able to pull off the race and pay all the vendors," Waltz said. "Also, his website says that the registration is not refundable, and we don't want to endorse a situation where the people could be losing their money after they pay a deposit."

Reinke, however, said that one way or another, he will make the event happen.

"There are some key community leaders who we have follow-up discussions with scheduled for next week," he said.  "... We are keeping all options open, particularly in deference to the large number of runners who will be coming from outside of the area.  But we fully intend to have the second annual Freeport Half Marathon."

The meeting was the latest turn in an ongoing battle between Reinke and a handful of local runners who say they don't trust him to stage a proper road race.

Critics said Reinke's company, Dean Reinke Sports, has a track record that tends to leave unwary runners with more pain than a pulled hamstring.

Reinke, a 37-year veteran of the running scene, said his critics are a select group of self-serving competitors who are ignoring a long history of providing well-managed events across the country.

"We make a successful event, and then people say, 'geez, we've got a successful event. Why do we need a guy from Florida?'" Reinke said. "In Freeport, we had a home run last year."

Last year's Freeport Half Marathon had no major incidents, and Kelly Edwards, of co-sponsor Freeport USA, said that she would be happy to see it return.

"Last year it went off without a hitch," Edwards said. "It brings hundreds of runners and they bring their friends and families. It gives a boost to local businesses, the restaurants and hotels."

But the Freeport Police Department, which provided security at the event, wasn't happy with Reinke after he failed to pay a $1,300 bill, despite five notices sent over a period of months. Reinke has since paid the police, but critics said it was only a belated effort to pave the way for this year's event.

A bill of $129 from the Brunswick Police Department remained unpaid as of a week ago, police said.

Freeport rejection

Brunswick became the battleground for the Freeport Half Marathon after a May 2 vote by the Freeport Town Council denied Reinke an event permit.

Freeport Councilor James Hendricks said he was first made aware of the issue by Maine Marathon Director Howard Spear.

Spear's warning caused Hendricks to research Reinke's background. The search turned up an incident in Greenwood, S.C., where Reinke reportedly cancelled an event and refused to refund runners' registration fees.

Hendricks that incident, coupled with negative comments in online forums and some complaints with the Better Business Bureau, suggested a pattern, and led him to call for a meeting with Reinke and Freeport police.

Reinke said that the negative comments are giving a skewed impression of a legitimate business enterprise.

"You can Google anybody and you can come up with some dirt there," he said. "I could probably Google you, and your newspaper."

The Better Business Bureau reported 17 complaints against Reinke, 15 of which have gone without responses. The BBB gives Reinke a grade of F.

"I don't give a lot of credibility to the BBB," Reinke said. "Most of the complaints are about things I have no control over, or misperceptions. There's a reason we've got 25,000 runners. We had 80 different meetings with cities wanting to explore bringing our services in."

As for the refunds, Reinke said, his company's policy is an industry standard.

"One of the things these guys are crying about is we don't give refunds. When you run a race, there's a no-refund policy," he said.

Hendricks disagreed.

"I would have given the money back," he said. "It's that simple."

Ultimately, Hendricks was not satisfied with Reinke's explanations, which he said led him to bring the issue to the Freeport council.

Along with Spears, Topsham resident Mark Grandonico has been the other runner leading the charge against Reinke. Grandonico, a board member of the Roadrunners Club of America, said RRCA revoked Reinke's membership in April, an action he called unusual.

Reinke hasn't gone about things in the most responsible manner in Freeport, Grandonico said.

"The very first thing you do is go to the town and get permission," he said. "What he did in Freeport was, he opened the event up before he secured a permit. So he's been collecting people's money."

Registered runners

The website promoting the half marathon continues to advertise the event to runners and collect registration fees. Grandonico said he estimates that Reinke has collected fees from between 60 and 100 runners.

 
"It's a decent number," Reinke said. "We have literally runners from all over the country."
 
Reinke said that he had a verbal agreement with the Freeport police, and a subsequent verbal agreement with the Brunswick police, which encouraged him to move forward with race plans.
 
"We've got permits and agreements right now," he said before the Wednesday meeting. "Right now, everything's cool as far as I'm concerned."
 
Before the meeting, Waltz said that there was no agreement in place.
 

Reinke said that the responsibility for the Freeport event's possible cancellation lies with Hendricks, Spears, and Grandonico.

 
"If these guys cause the event to not happen, then I'm going to put it back on them, to deal with all the runners," he said. "I wish I was wealthy. If I had my own attorney, I could probably slap a lawsuit on these guys."

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or matthh@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @hh_matt.