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Montezuma County presents new contract to operate fairgrounds racetrack

Montezuma County has released a new contract for operations at the Montezuma County racetrack at the fairgrounds. (Journal file)
Previous promoter dropped out because of contract dispute

Montezuma County is seeking a promoter for the racetrack at the fairgrounds.

Gene Felker, who has been the promoter for the past three years, decided to step away after a contract dispute with the Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners.

The county has developed a new contract for the race track venue beginning next year.

The new contract calls for the promoter to pay a flat fee of $15,000 per year, and also pay for race track maintenance, water and electric costs.

The previous contracts gave promoters the option of paying $350 per day or 1,100 per day to rent the race track.

At the $350 daily rate, the promoter paid for all maintenance. At the $1,100 rate, the county covered maintenance costs.

Race cars compete at the Montezuma County Speedway.

Felker has urged county commissioners to invest in upgrades at the racetrack, which the county owns.

The county’s position has been that the race track is available for lease for a business, and the business is responsible for upkeep.

Felker has the right of first refusal for the contract, which he refused, according to County Administrator Shak Powers. Felker still has the option of presenting for the contract award and will be considered along with other applicants.

The contract is now available for the 2022 season, and interested parties may present their pitches to the Board of County Commissioners.

Felker’s races and demolition derbies have grown in popularity.

During public comment Sept. 21, Felker urged the county to renegotiate the contract terms.

“Let’s set our differences aside and work this out and come up with a contract that is fair,” Felker said. “This racetrack brings revenue to the county and city, and we are giving youths the skills they need.”

Many of his supporters also urged the county to negotiate a contract with Felker during public comment.

“Gene is the guy we want to run this racetrack. There are not too many with his skill set,” said longtime racer Tony Hill. “The racing community wants him here; he is part of our family.”

Others supported Felker for his efforts to bring youths into auto racing.

“I’ve never seen anyone do as much as Gene for the children of this community,” said Marian Rodd. “They learn mechanic skills and responsibility.”

County commissioners agreed the racetrack has many benefits, but they remained steadfast in requiring the promoter to cover costs through a lease and contract because it is operated as a private business.

“We’re not trying to get rid of racing,” said Commissioner Jim Candelaria. “We feel it is a good contract.”

He said it historically has not been the responsibility of the county to operate or maintain the facility. The county owns the track and leases it to an operator.

“Our decisions are based on research. We don’t disagree with the good it does for the community,” said Commissioner Joel Stevenson. “We have to spend our tax dollars the best we can, and can’t spend tax dollars on private industry.”

The new annual contract for operations of the county fairgrounds racetrack is available on the county website, at montezumacounty.org.