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Willmar City Council invites KRA officials to meeting to discuss racetrack issues

WILLMAR -- City officials will invite Kandi Racing Association representatives to the next City Council Community Development Committee meeting to discuss what residents living near the north side racetrack say are violations of a gentlemen's agreement that set race ending times.

The City Council this week approved a committee recommendation dir-ecting city staff to send a letter of invitation to KRA to attend the April 30 meeting.

North side residents say the agreement, reached by a racetrack task force in 2003, is not working.

They told the committee last week that the agreement called for races to conclude at 10 p.m. on school nights.

But the 2009 lease agreement between KRA and the Kandiyohi County Fair Association for use of the fairgrounds' racetrack states races between May 7 and 28 are to end by 10:15 p.m.

North side residents also raised concerns about dust, noise and fumes resulting from racing activity.

During Monday night's council meeting, Denis Anderson, who participated in the task force, said the invitation was a good approach.

"We did come to some understanding on a number of different things and perhaps some of those have eroded,'' he said. "Different membership and that sort of thing, and I think before we get accusatory we need to sit down and have a good heart-to-heart discussion to see why some of those things maybe haven't been lived up to.''

City Administrator Michael Schmit said he was assured by Denny Baker of the Kandiyohi County Fair that his group and others were available to meet with the committee to discuss some of these issues, to resurrect those agreements made years ago.

Schmit said the starting times in the lease are different from what was discussed at the Community Development Committee meeting.

"I told Mr. Baker we would invite him to the meeting and have that conversation,'' Schmit said.

In related business, the council approved a committee recommendation to have the city contact the Kandiyohi County Fair Association representatives to revive discussion of a possible relocation of the fairgrounds as a long-term solution to racetrack issues.

Council member Steve Ahmann said the intent of his motion was to deal with racetrack issues, deal with the issue of relocation and look for possible solutions.

"Based on the complaints and for the all years we've dealt with it, I think it would be something we should look at as a long-term strategy,'' Ahmann said.

Mayor Les Heitke asked if finding a long-term solution means the council wants to move the fairgrounds.

"Not really,'' said Ahmann. "It could mean moving the racetrack to a different location. I want to look at different solutions, different options, and it will cost money either way.''

During the open forum, Dan Crannick of 1708 Richland Ave. S.W. asked the city to request the owner of a nearby weed-infested field to mow the property more frequently. Crannick said he has been fighting the effect of weeds for four years. He said the field is never mowed more than two or three times a year.

He also said gophers are problem and he displayed a piece of underground electric cable to his house that gophers had ruined. He said gophers could also be a problem for the main underground electrical line serving neighboring houses.

Schmit said property owners are required to maintain their properties and said he was surprised to learn the city hadn't responded sooner than Crannick indicated. "But we generally respond on a complaint basis,'' he said. Schmit said he will contact the owner and indicate there's a problem and ask for cooperation.

Public Works Director Mel Odens said he was not aware of any method the city would use to control gophers on private property.

In other business, the council approved the final plat of Industrial Park Third Addition. The plat of 14 lots and several outlots located east of the new County Road 5 is the result of the city's expansion of the industrial park onto the former airport property.