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.Spokane County is looking for a new operator of its racetrack who will have to have something the last operator did not – experience running a track.
A request for qualifications to bid on the contract for the Spokane County Raceway Park was released Wednesday and the lease could be awarded by mid February, County Parks Director Doug Chase said. Any bidder must provide significantly more information on finances than the county requested last year, and expect increased oversight of track operations by the county.
“I think it’s safe to say” the county learned from problems it had with Bucky Austin, who received the operator’s lease for the track early this year, Chase said.
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?
The county’s insurance may be needed to pay contractors that performed the work ordered by Austin Motor Sports Management but never approved by the county, they said.
Commissioners voted unanimously during a special afternoon
meeting Thursday 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
They’re looking for a new operator to run the track in 2010,
although next time, they expect to keep “a closer, watchful eye” on
The county became aware of financial problems at the track last summer, when contractors began serving notice that they would file liens for unpaid bills. Austin called the liens standard procedure, said he had to review billing to make sure the work was actually done and promised to pay everybody by November.
But commissioners discovered
Because of those problems, 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 just 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
The county will draft a new request for proposal and allow potential operators to submit bids.
“We hope to find an operator that can continue to operate the track… and maintain it’s credibility with the community,” Mielke said. “We’re going to do our due diligence with any construction projects that take place.”
They want to county will also review all the outstanding claims to make sure the work was done, is up to standards and has been double-billed, Commissioner Mark Richard said. Legitimate claims will be submitted to the county’s insurance carrier for payment.
That process could take up to 60 days. John Black, an attorney who represents seven of the contractors holding some $1.19 million in unpaid bills, said his clients could eventually file suit against the county if they aren’t paid. But it might take about two months to prepare a lawsuit, so the contractors might hold off.
“If in fact there is a commitment to pay, it would make sense to wait,” said Black, who added he heard about the commissioners’ decision from the reporter calling to ask for comment.
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.
In an interview with The Spokesman-Review after the meeting,
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.
“Our intent is to pay them, and to pay them as quickly as
John Black, an attorney for Clark and Winkler, called
But he was concerned about
County officials will meet Monday with Austin and his staff about notices from contractors for past-due bills totaling more than $1 million for work done this year on the county-owned track. They will also try to determine whether a surety bond was obtained for the improvements, as required by the lease agreement.
“I don’t think I owe anybody over 45 or 50 days,”
But an attorney for two of the major contractors at the racetrack, Winkler Concrete and T.W. Clark, disagreed. John Black said the bills from those companies averaged 60 days past due; contractors only hired him to file liens because they exhausted other avenues and were worried they wouldn’t get paid.
The contractors have notified the county, which owns the racetrack, of that demand for payment. “This is the last thing they wanted to do,” Black said.
The operator of the county’s West Plains racetrack owes $20,000 in back payments to the county and more than $1 million to contractors who have been refurbishing the facility, county officials said
“He is two months behind,” Farnell said. “We don’t know why.”
The county asked