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County terminates Grays Harbor Raceway contract

The Grays Harbor County Commissioners terminated its contract with Great Northwest Promotions LLC, citing numerous unpaid bills owed to the county.

The move was done during a special meeting of the county commissioners Tuesday afternoon and was seen as so important that County Commissioner Herb Welch made his first physical appearance at the commission meeting in four months to join fellow Commissioners Wes Cormier and Frank Gordon to immediately end the contract.

Welch has been attending meeting by phone due to health reasons, but says he wanted to come back to make this vote.

“We’ve been talking about this for years,” Welch said. “There’s been excuse after excuse and it’s time for them to go.”

“I’m fed up,” Cormier added. “There’s been so many broken promises, that I’m just fed up.”

The company has 30 days from the Oct. 15 date of the letter to gather their belongings and leave the Raceway’s premises. Cormier said he’s optimistic there will be racing next year and the commissioners will solicit requests for information on potential contractors. Cormier said the county also needs a more ironclad contract and they’ve tasked Deputy Prosecutor Jim Baker to work on that.

Great Northwest Promotions took over the contract in 2007, following the death of Fred Brownfield, who is largely seen as the man, who revitalized the Raceway. Operator Jerry Schram brought NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle in as an investor in 2011. However, the county commissioners have never met Biffle and never seen any documents with his name on it.

“We really don’t even know who owns Great Northwest Promotions,” Grays Harbor Public Services Director Kevin Varness told the county commissioners recently.

The commissioners noted that there have long been promises of track upgrades, but only the minimum maintenance was ever done.

Commissioner Gordon said he had let Cormier take charge of this process. Cormier says he’s not even a race fan. He just wants to see the county implement better business practices.

At this point, the promoters owe $6,109 to the Sheriff’s Office for providing security at the track that remains unpaid dating back to Sept. 26, 2012. There is also an invoice of $1,530 dated Oct. 10, 2013, which has also not been paid.

“An additional substantial breach of the contract is that Great Northwest Promotions has failed to provide required documentation of paid admission ticket sales for the 2013 World of Outlaws event, the 2012 American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) events and the 2013 ASCS events, with a payment fee of $1 per paid admission to each national or regional event as required by … the first amendment to the raceway contract,” the letter from the county commissioners state.

The Raceway was also supposed to deliver a fully executed bond or letter of credit at the beginning of each year’s racing season and that hasn’t happened.

Cormier says it’s been months since he or the other commissioners have been in contact with anyone from Great Northwest. There were promises of a payment plan that would be in the works, but beyond a $641 payment on the unpaid security costs, nothing has materialized, Cormier said. It’s unclear how much the Raceway really owes the county at this point because the county has been kept in the dark about how well the big races have done and the attendance figures.

“It’s unacceptable,” Cormier said.

Fair Director Mike Bruner said that rent was also owed on the Raceway dating back to 2012, but that was just paid off last month. The Raceway also had recent issues keeping its lights and the Grays Harbor PUD shut off the power until passed-due bills were paid, according to a public records request.

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