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Spin Control

Posts tagged: Spokane County Raceway

County racetrack financials in question. Again

Spokane County Raceway has an oval track, on which people drive very fast in circles, record mileage and wind up where they started.

Which seems a pretty apt metaphor for the raceway since the county bought the property in 2008. The original operator, Bucky Austin, got into trouble with renovations and contractor payments in 2009. The county had to find a new operator and settled with contractors in 2010 for $850,000. 

The new operator, Raceway Investments, went through two iterations in ownership/management, and this year's new managing partner said they were going to give the facility a new image. Raceway Investments leases the oval to Full Blown Promotions and this week, as colleague Mike Prager reports in today's Spokesman-Review,  Raceway Investments said Full Blown is behind on its rent and said the rest of its season was cancelled. The county announced the change in management for the oval at a press conference Monday.

Most notable line from the press conference goes to Commissioner Todd Mielke: “I stuck my neck out to save racing.”

Contractors sue county

Six Spokane area contractors are suing Spokane County over unpaid bills from the county’s West Plains racetrack.

In the latest move in the ongoing dispute over the track’s management by Austin Motorsports, the six contractors say they are owed a total of $1.13 million for worked performed earlier this year. Austin lost his contract to manage the track earlier this year because of the unpaid bills, and for failing to follow certain rules of the agreement, which required him to get a performance bond for the work being done there.

He didn’t obtain a bond, and last summer blamed one of the prime contractors, who he claimed was responsible for such details as the project manager.

The lawsuit asks for the court to order the county to pay the bills and attorneys fees. It notes that when the county bought the racetrack in 2008 at a foreclosure auction, two of the commissioners touted its economic potential.

Commissioner Todd Mielke said the purchase gave the county a chance to consider other recreatonal possibilities, the suit notes, while Commissioner Mark Richard said the track “would be a positive venture ‘come heck or high water.’”

Could someone check the water levels on the West Plains?

Austin: Track to stay open, contractors to be paid

The operator of the Spokane County Raceway insists he has no plans to shut down the track or shorten the racing season, and all contractors will be paid for work done at the county-owned facility.

Bucky Austin met Monday with County Commissioner Todd Mielke, plus county legal, finance and parks staff, to discuss complaints of nonpayment from contractors and the failure to purchase a performance bond required by his operating agreement. Two large contractors, T.W. Clark and Winkler Concrete, filed notices of liens with the county late last month totaling more than $1 million.

Austin will provide some form of collateral by early next week to protect taxpayers while the bills are examined and payments are sorted out, Mielke said.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review after the meeting, Austin said he “overspent” by doing construction projects during the first half of 2009 that were required in the first two years of his lease.

About $2 million worth of construction has been done at the track, and about half has been paid, he said. That includes DiPaolo Painting, a contractor mentioned in a June 30 story, who was sent the second half of his payment by overnight mail after the story ran.

Austin said he hopes to work out payment schedules for the rest with the remaining contractors. Some invoices are “barely 30 days old” and the bills average about 45 days. Some bills were delayed in the mail because the racetrack’s address has changed three times since the county acquired it; a change in personnel also meant the track’s financial operations recently moved from the raceway park to his home office in Fife.

“Our intent is to pay them, and to pay them as quickly as possible,” Austin said. Outstanding invoices have to be checked to insure the work was done properly and he wasn’t double-billed. He said he expected to make regular payments and to pay all legitimate claims “no later than Nov. 1.”

John Black, an attorney for Clark and Winkler, called Austin’s promise of payment “good news – if it happens.”

But he was concerned about Austin’s suggestion that contractors might have to wait more than three months for some payments for work already done: “They’re contractors, not bankers.”

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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