'Speedway, police at $100,000 impasse'

Last modified: 5/11/2010 12:00:00 AM
Even after the governor assembled a committee to deal with New Hampshire Motor Speedway's concerns about the cost of police and fire coverage at the track, the speedway and Loudon police Chief Bob Fiske are about $100,000 apart on the cost of covering next month's NASCAR race weekend.

Fiske said he will present the Loudon selectmen tonight with a memorandum of understanding, to be signed by Jerry Gappens, the speedway's executive vice president, stating that the town of Loudon will be paid $174,500 for police and fire coverage, the same cost as the September 2009 race weekend.

But Gappens says track owner Bruton Smith believes adequate coverage can be provided for $75,000. The Loudon track is the only one of eight speedways owned by Smith's company, Speedway Motorsports, that pays for police and fire coverage, Gappens said.

Gappens said yesterday he considers Fiske's request that he sign a memorandum of understanding to be 'an insult' to the relationship forged between town and speedway.

'It makes me feel like they feel that we're not trustworthy and we're thieves,' he said. 'That concerns me.'

Fiske has said that in order to provide the same level of coverage at the track as in September, $174,500 - $134,000 of that for police coverage - is as low as he can go. That figure is already down significantly from the $263,000 the track paid for police and fire coverage in June 2009, and the selectmen are 'totally supportive' of maintaining the same level of manpower, he said.

Fiske said he collects about 80 officers from Loudon and towns across the state who make $43 per hour to work the race weekend. He said he knows asking Gappens to sign the memo 'puts a bad taste in people's mouths,' but he 'can't stand' to leave the town holding the rest of the bill in order to provide adequate coverage.

'We've been told it's going to be $75,000, and I'm saying it's going to be $134,000,' Fiske said. 'Where do we go from here?'

At the company's other speedway locations, Gappens said state and local officials provide coverage for no charge in recognition of the boon to the local economy

After the 2009 racing season, Gappens said he contacted Gov. John Lynch, who put together a task force of top officials, including Department of Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes and state police Col. Robert Quinn, to see if the state could lend officers for next month's race in light of Smith's $75,000 cap.

'We went around the table and there were no resources available from the state,' Fiske said.

Gappens said he was 'disappointed' with the results of the two task force meetings. He said it 'frustrates' him that Laconia Bike Week isn't billed for state police coverage despite the speedway having a 'far greater economic benefit.'

If the speedway is stuck on paying $75,000, Fiske said he is 'perfectly fine' with only employing enough officers to patrol the Route 106 corridor. Gappens said a potential solution might be hiring private security employees at $21 an hour to cover the speedway property, but officers with arresting powers will still be needed.


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