June 23, 2010 in City

County adds more money to raceway improvements

By The Spokesman-Review
 
File photo

The drag strip at Spokane Raceway Park stood empty in April 2008 as the property awaited the upcoming auction. The county purchased it for $4.3 million.
(Full-size photo)

The Spokane County Raceway will receive $250,000 more in tax-funded safety and accessibility improvements.

County commissioners voted Tuesday to add that amount to $200,000 authorized in April for similar work.

The combined $450,000 outlay falls far short of the $1.1million total cost of raceway projects presented so far this year by Parks Director Doug Chase.

With Commissioner Mark Richard out sick, Commissioner Todd Mielke assumed there was no chance of approving other items on the list, including $684,500 in improvements to the road course.

“You assumed correctly,” Commissioner Bonnie Mager told Mielke.

Mager said she found it “outrageous” that the raceway had become “a top priority of this county government” and “continues to suck money from us” when there’s not enough money for the county’s juvenile justice system.

Juvenile Court Services officials have told commissioners that lack of manpower is threatening the safety of staff members and juvenile offenders.

Mager dissented from Mielke and Richard’s decision to buy the 314.7-acre raceway in April 2008 for $4.3million, and she has remained a resolute critic.

She notes debt service will bring the purchase price to approximately $7million, the cost of cleaning up a contaminated well remains undetermined, and the county has yet to extricate itself from lawsuits over $1.1million worth of unpaid bills racked up by the track’s first operator under county ownership.

Mager said she voted “grudgingly” Tuesday for a half dozen improvements on Chase’s list because they are related to spectator safety and compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. County Risk Manager Steve Bartel said he considers a $572,500 proposal to realign the road course “a huge issue” for safety. The realignment would eliminate the need to cross the racetrack to get to the race office.

Bartel said the county needs to resolve the issue soon so the location of a new maintenance building can be determined. He said the county is in danger of losing an $80,000 insurance reimbursement for the snow-load collapse of the original building during the winter of 2008-’09.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners approved an agreement with Airway Heights to exchange 70 acres of undeveloped raceway property for sewer and water service to the raceway. The land is to be used for a regional sports park.

Airway Heights will have the right to acquire 26.8 additional acres once a decision is made on future changes to the road course.

Still pending is a proposal for the city and county to split the proceeds from the city’s raceway-based entertainment tax. The county portion would be used to develop the raceway.


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