Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Placer grand jury critical of speedway work at fairgrounds

By Cathy Locke - The Modesto Bee
A Placer County grand jury report says a history of negligence by county government in overseeing contracts resulted in unauthorized modifications to a speedway on county fairgrounds – and that is creating a nuisance for neighbors.

The report released by the 2011-12 grand jury calls for the county to terminate its contract with the Placer County Fair Association, arguing that despite a statutory limitation of five years, the current contract has been in effect for more than 10 years.

The jury recommends the Board of Supervisors seek an alternative nonprofit corporation or association to operate and manage the Placer County Fair and the All American Speedway on the Roseville fairgrounds.

After structural modifications to the speedway were made in 2006-07, residents near the fairgrounds complained of noise from race cars and the PA system, and traffic congestion.

To address these complaints, the grand jury report says, the county drafted a revised contract that included additional safeguards, controls and oversight by the county, but the association refused to sign it.

Mary Dietrich, assistant director of the county's Department of Facility Services, said the speedway modifications were made without the county's knowledge, and the fair association is now applying retroactively for the required building and grading permits.

Although the fair association is covering the cost of permit fees, the county will pay for an environmental study that will accompany a new operating agreement, Dietrich said.

The study, she said, will evaluate the environmental effects the speedway would have on the surrounding neighborhood under the operations plan.

The grand jury report estimates the study could cost as much as $100,000. Dietrich said the county is seeking proposals from firms to conduct the environmental impact report. "EIRs are expensive," she said.

But Dietrich said the study and operating agreement could apply to any party that contracted with the county to operate the fairgrounds and speedway.

John Javidan became general manager of the Placer County Fair Association in January. He said the speedway generates more than 50 percent of the revenue needed to operate the annual Placer County Fair, revenue that is critical since the state eliminated funding for county fairs.

Javidan said the association is working with Dietrich on the new operating agreement, and has been working with race car drivers and equipment manufacturers to keep engine noise levels below 90 decibels.

Dietrich said the county also has directed the speedway to caulk gaps in sound walls and raise berms to reduce noise in the surrounding neighborhood.
But Mike Kassis, a neighborhood resident, said efforts thus far have done nothing to reduce the noise.

Kassis said he doesn't think any measures will adequately resolve nuisance issues with a speedway at this location. He favors allowing the speedway to operate as is for now, but with this directive to the operator: "Give yourself three years to plan and relocate, because this is not the right place."

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