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Raceway choices pared

Wed., Feb. 17, 2010

Committee recommends track operator applicants

Four operators want to take over Spokane County Raceway Park, and a committee has narrowed the field to two, county commissioners learned Tuesday.

Purchasing Director Bela Kovacs identified the finalists as J-Mar Racing Inc. of Woodburn, Ore., and the St. Albert, Alberta, partnership of Donald G. Hodgson and Charles M. Allen.

Kovacs said an 11-member selection committee of county employees and citizens will interview the finalists Monday and recommend one to commissioners.

The other applicants for the raceway park contract are Bernard E. Longjohn, of Sun City West, Ariz., and a local partnership called Advocates for Spokane Raceway Park, composed of Spokane Valley resident Andy Kautzman and Coeur d’Alene resident Paul Plummer.

Details about the applicants and their proposals were not available Tuesday.

One of the factors used to narrow the field was the amount of rent each applicant offered to pay the county. But Kovacs declined to release the amounts, saying a more thorough analysis was needed before he could give precise numbers.

“There is a certain amount of calculation that’s involved,” Kovacs said.

The applicants responded to a “request for qualifications,” not a request for bids based on precise specifications. They were allowed some flexibility in the way they couched their offers.

Rent is just one factor county officials plan to consider. Experience and financial stability also are important, said Parks Director Doug Chase, who oversees the raceway.

Officials want no repetition of last year’s botched first season under county ownership. Operator Austin Motorsports Management racked up $1.1 million in unpaid bills, and six local contractors sued the county.

Commissioners canceled Austin’s 25-year, renewable lease and set tighter conditions for a new five-year contract that can be renewed for five more years.

The new contractor will have to post a bond or some other guarantee that rent and taxes will be paid.

Also, the new operator won’t be allowed to make capital improvements without county approval. The county will supervise construction projects under state public works regulations.

Chase said John Hedy, who represented drag racers on the committee, stepped down because of a conflict and will be replaced.

County officials had hoped the new operator would begin work at the speedway on March 1, but “I’m not sure that’s realistic at this point,” Kovacs said.

The March 1 goal was set before the deadline for applications was extended almost three weeks.

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