Development near airport discussed by commission
At a regular meeting of the county commission it isn't often when officials hear about possible development of two projects in the very same geographical area, but last Wednesday evening that is exactly what happened.
Carbon County commissioners first heard from some citizens that are requesting help from them in building a drag strip near the airport. For many years racers in the county have been trying to get an official type of drag strip built, mainly because the racing is going on illegally on some roads in the county and safety is becoming an ever more important factor.
"I propose that the county assists us in building some type of drag strip," said Mike Fercik, a spokesman for a group of about 40 people who showed up in support of the idea. "We want to know if you would support us in such an effort."
Commissioner Mike Milovich asked Fercik what he meant in terms of support. Fercik pointed out that the group is willing to work through whatever channels they need to get such a project done. He said they had had thoughts and discussions with some people about trying to build such a facility through the Carbon County recreation department. But specifically, he asked if the county had any ground that it could use for such a facility, particularly ground near the airport and the current Desert Thunder Raceway.
Currently the commission is considering helping the Carbon King Crawlers Club to build a course in the same area and Fercik pointed out he would like to see the two things go together if possible.
Milovich pointed out that the land that the county is considering for the 4x4 course is about a quarter section of property and he wondered if that would be big enough. He was also wondering about what the group thought the cost might be to build it.
"What we are planning to build isn't a NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) track," stated Fercik. "That would require too much money. We want to build what they call an outlaw track."
Fercik explained that an outlaw track would cost only about a quarter of what a NHRA sanctioned track would. He guessed between $200,000 and a half a million dollars.
Milovich pointed out that he thought that estimate was way low based on the costs and the conversations he had with various people.
"A few months ago Harvey Howard (owner of the speedway) came into a meeting here and said he wanted to build a dragstrip. We don't want something the county builds to compete with private enterprise and if they can do it would be better for the county."
Howard was in the audience and spoke up saying that he was just at the meeting to listen to what transpired.
"This one would be much less expensive than the one I wanted to build," he stated. "My plan was to build an NHRA sanctioned track."
According to the discussion that ensued a NHRA track would cost about $2 million, largely because so much of it has to be made up of concrete. But an outlaw track would only require regular pavement.
After some more discussion Commission Chairman Steve Burge pointed out that the idea is a sound one, but that it is too preliminary for the county to give any kind of an endorsement.
"Without any plans we certainly can't lend support to this at this time," he said. "I think it is a good idea, but there are no funds for such a project, although I could see the use of this along with other projects in that area to create a kind of mecca for events. That could really help the county's economy."
Milovich pointed out that if the group wants to put a plan together and bring it back the commission would look at it but he still thought that "you are shy on the cost and I am not sure that the area you are thinking of has enough room in it."
Fercik said he had already approached a few businesses in the area including some in the gas and oil industry for help on the project, which he thought could eventually be a money maker for the area.
"I could see this track getting sanctioned events and maybe even the nationals someday," he stated. "We are also interested in tying this into a Jalopies for Kids program."
Fercik explained that the program, which has taken off in other areas of the country, helps kids get into working on cars as a way of keeping them away from drugs and other destructive behaviors.
The commission named Dennis Dooley as the liaison with the group to work on the project and to attend a mass meeting the movement will have on Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. in the Price Civic Auditorium to discuss the project with the general public and other interested parties.
Another project, which is much farther down the pike and which is situated right on the airports grounds is the construction of four hangers north of the present main hanger.
"We eventually look to putting in a commercial business out there, " said Tom Akers, who along with Gust Kalatzes is proposing the project. "But we think the best way to do that is to begin with building hangers for storage of aircraft.
Akers pointed out the proposed project would line up along the designated ramp area that is now planned.
"We presently plan to use two of the buildings for our own airplanes and to rent out the other two," explained Akers.
In the last year a group of investors from New York had approached the county about putting up at least 10 hangers in the area, and were ready to go had they found any tenants for the buildings. However they had a hard time getting anyone to commit and decided to wait. After that Akers and Kalatzes decided to step in and begin with a similar project but on a smaller scale.
Mark Francis, the airport's manager, spoke to the commission and pointed out that what the two planned to do fit right in with the master plan that has been envisioned by the airport board and the county.
Milovich said, he too was excited about what they pair wanted to do.
"I'm glad someone is ready to step up and to get started on this," he said. "Bringing in commercial development and business into the airport is exactly what we need."
The pair also requested some county help when there is time.
"If the county can do some preliminary grading with their equipment and set some elevations for us we can get the buildings in hopefully this winter," said Akers. He also asked about leases for the property, since the buildings will be privately owned but the ground will still belong to the county.
The commissioners decided to approve the concept of the idea and to send the county engineer out to do some surveying in the area.
In the next month the pair will come back to the commission with some dollar figures on the project and how much the county would expend in manpower and equipment to help prepare the site.