October 29, 2009 in City

Spokane County fires racetrack operator

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Background

Read previous coverage of the operating contract with Bucky Austin and Spokane County’s purchase of the racetrack in 2008.

Spokane County commissioners today terminated the contract with the Austin Motor Sports Management, the company they hired less than a year ago to operate the controversial Spokane County Raceway Park in Airway Heights.

The county’s insurance may be needed to pay some $1.2 million in outstanding debt for improvements at the track, they said.

Commissioners voted unanimously during a special afternoon meeting to terminate the contract with the company and its owner Bucky Austin, a racing enthusiast who owns a chain of auto repair shops in the Puget Sound region. Despite promises in August and September that he would make good on all outstanding debts for improvements in the park, Austin still owes contractors, who have filed liens worth about $1.2 million against him and the county.

Austin’s contract was in default and terminated, commissioners said, because he failed to pay the contractors, failed to secure a performance bond before he contracted for the work, and didn’t go through the competitive bidding process required for public projects.

Austin was put on notice in September that he’d lose the contract in 60 days if he didn’t “cure” those problems. He wasn’t able to find financing or partners to make payments, commissioners said.

The notice of default had a 60-day time limit, which would have been up on Sunday. When asked why they were terminating it three days early, they said the weather was turning cold and they wanted to have county staff “winterize” the facility as soon as possible.

Asked if the decision was at all prompted by fears Austin’s Motorsport manaoement company could declare bankruptcy, Board Chairman Todd Mielke would only say: “Rumors abound.”


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