Race track task force to weigh in

The citizen’s task force gathering lifestyle-related information about the proposed Kitsap County NASCAR racetrack will present its final report this morning to the county commissioners.

The report’s executive summary states, “The Task Force attempted only to understand real-world perceptions of those living around track communities and to provide clues for further inquiry about how this proposal would translate in Kitsap. Many of the answers were consistently echoed from community to community. The consistency of response led to greater confidence in the findings.”

“This report isn’t based on data,” said County Administrator Cris Gears. “Rather, it has to do with the kind of feeling that you have in your gut. The decision whether to support or not support the racetrack won’t just be based on objective numbers — it will be based on data that we can’t put a number to.

“How a racetrack affects lifestyle can be the most important aspect,” he said, “and is set aside from environmental impact data or financing information.”

Twelve volunteers and two alternates held six meetings, making random calls to people who live in proximity to six racetracks around the country.

The project was directed by Teresa Battuello, who worked as Kitsap County’s public information officer for several years.

She billed her time for the project, to not exceed $10,000.

“This wasn’t government-to-government interaction, which will come later,” Battuello said. “We wanted to find out what people thought of the tracks in their communities.”

The 135-page report contains summations of each interview, along with map and population data about every site.

“I thought we worked very well together,” said task force member Jim Sommerhouser. “There were no obvious partisans on the issue, and we were able to take a process that’s not totally scientific and get consistent results.”

Sommerhauser said the task force found that racetracks operating independently instead of as part of the International Speedway Corp. (which is behind the Kitsap proposal) are “less local-friendly, and not as involved with the community.”

The accumulated data also shattered some stereotypes.

“NASCAR fans are not a bunch of redneck, drunken bums,” Sommerhauser said.

As for the economic impact, Sommerhauser said the task force found that racetracks themselves do not provide quality jobs for local people.

“A national vendor will win these concession contracts,” he said. “They may hire some local people, but it will all be minimum wage.”

The report is on the agenda for 10 a.m., in the third floor conference room of the public works building next to the county courthouse.

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