Senter says racetrack could unfairly burden fire district

If a NASCAR racetrack facility is built in South Kitsap with the funding package currently being discussed, South Kitsap Fire and Rescue Chief Wayne Senter said it may undo all the positive traction his district gained from the levy passage last month.

“No property taxes are being assessed, which is how the district gets its funding,” Senter said, explaining that if a NASCAR track near the Bremerton National Airport is ultimately approved and paid for by a combination of International Speedway Corp. money and state bonds, his staff will see a large increase in service calls without a corresponding increase in funding.

“On race days, the track could attract 82,000 people into the area, and those people generate calls (for service),” he said, explaining that he wasn’t necessarily concerned about the period of time that races or other events were going on, but the hours both before and afterward.

“The race organizers typically have enough people at the track during races to respond,” he said. “The squishy part is when you have people driving to and from the track and getting into accidents. Those crowds will basically be doubling the population, and its reasonable to assume we will have a large increase in calls.”

Senter said if property taxes were assessed on the $400 million facility, his district would be receiving an additional $500,000 a year to offset the costs of handling more incidents.

“But because there’s no formal plug in to the fire district, an unfair burden is placed on the rest of the taxpaying citizens, and I don’t think they should have to suffer slower responses times because NASCAR didn’t pay their fair share,” he said.

Senter said so far he has been excluded from the discussions regarding building a racetrack facility, and has contacted county officials expressing his frustration.

“So far the responses have been, ‘We’re going to get to that,’ and that is not the right way to deal with that issue,” he said. “The right way would be to sit down and say, ‘Yes there’s an impact,’ and then figure out what would be a fair amount to mitigate that impact. It’s a pretty easy thing to do.”

Senter said he has negotiated such arrangements with the South Kitsap School District and Washington State Veterans Home at Retsil, and has sent letters to Kitsap County Officials, including Jim Bolger in the Department of Community Development, asking to be involved in future discussions.

Bolger said he received the letter, and it was the county’s intention to consider the fire district in the facility’s application.

“We intend to have every agency that would be affected (by the track) to be part of the discussions,” he said, explaining that he felt it would be more appropriate to have those discussions once a track proposal was approved.

County Assessor Jim Avery said it was not uncommon for facilities such as a racetrack to get property tax exemptions, and he was not surprised that Senter was expressing concern.

“That is how the fire district gets 90 percent of its funding, and if facilities do not pay property taxes, they could be seen as not paying their fair share,” Avery said.

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