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Racetrack remains a contentious for city and KRA brass

WILLMAR -- Kandi Racing Association tries hard to end weekly races early or at curfew time and is working on dust, noise and other nuisance concerns raised by residents living near the north side racetrack, say supporters of the weekly summer races.

"Let's look at the ending times,'' said Denny Baker, the Kandiyohi County Fair Board's liaison to Kandi Racing Association. "We are reminded when a race night runs over. But what about the number of evenings when the races finish early, and KRA tries very hard to end early or at curfew time.''

Baker said KRA in 2009 will keep a log of each racing event, including weather conditions, starting time and ending time.

"It is easy to be negative about KRA and the fair, so we want dates and times in a log about each event,'' he said.

The neighbors, KRA, the fair board and the City Council have occasionally discussed racing-related concerns during the past six years. The latest round of concerns was triggered after the ending time of KRA's Fall Festival last September exceeded the 11:30 p.m. curfew in KRA's lease agreement with the fair board for use of the race track.

Baker said the Fall Festival ran late because rainy weather delayed the start of racing as KRA members dried out the track for the more than 140 cars present. Baker said it was not easy to cancel the race. Baker was not at the track at the time, but said he was told the event ended before midnight.

He said KRA was not fined for exceeding the curfew due to the number of cars present. However, KRA gave a $600 check to the Willmar Area Food Shelf. And because the festival was the final event of the season, KRA donated its remaining concession food to the food shelf, he said.

Baker admits that dust and noise are a problem, not only for north side residents but for KRA and drivers. He said it's easy to stand outside sidelines and have solutions, but he said not all solutions work on the race track.

"The track maintenance crew, along with KRA people, do their best to control dust, and sometimes Mother Nature and soil conditions just don't cooperate,'' he said.

Baker spoke Thursday afternoon to the City Council's Community Development Committee. The committee invited the racing group to answer concerns raised by neighbors during the committee's April 16 meeting. Baker was joined by five other Kandiyohi County Fair Board members and six KRA members. Four north side residents also attended.

Layne Roberts, KRA president and track manager, said he was surprised dust was an issue in 2008 "because it was the best the track has ever been. In 2007, I expected to hear something then.''

He also said most races were finished before 10 p.m. Under the lease agreement, races on school nights are to be completed by 10:15 p.m. and by 10:45 p.m. during the balance of the racing season.

Robert said all cars are required to have manufactured mufflers and KRA monitors noise levels to not exceed the track rule of 90 decibels.

Roberts said things worked well last year.

"We're not trying to be a bad neighbor to any of these folks,'' he said.

Committee members praised KRA for running a good operation.

Committee chairman Bruce DeBlieck, who represents the north side, received many complaints after the Fall Festival missed the curfew. Otherwise, DeBlieck said the remainder of the racing season went well.

In a brief interview, Baker said the meeting gave KRA an opportunity to provide input. He said some suggestions are very valid "and we certainly will deal with them.''