Nov. 28, 2005 St. Thomas residents can count on a horserace early next month, according to James OBryan, St. Thomas administrator.
When contacted Monday, OBryan said a task group of government officials from Public Works, Housing Parks and Recreation, and the Office of the Governor met for the first time last week to discuss getting the Clinton Phipps Racetrack in Bovoni back into business.
"To improve conditions at the track, we have launched a full scale capital improvement initiative so we can have a live horserace on Dec. 11," OBryan said. "We visited the track on Friday, and got some crews out there cleaning out overgrown bush and debris which have recently accumulated."
The efforts stemmed from a Senate meeting held last Tuesday to discuss the status of the track, OBryan added. At the meeting, stakeholders in the horseracing industry said Clinton Phipps is currently in "deplorable condition," and is losing money because of problems with the present promoter (see: "Senators Question Conditions at Clinton Phipps Race Track").
OBryan said another meeting held with the task group on Monday afternoon left him "confident the work is progressing well enough to ensure a race next month." A press release sent from OBryans office said work will also begin next week to repair bathrooms and "address other physical problems in the area."
Furthermore, OBryan said the government, acting through Housing, Parks, and Recreation, will be taking on the duties of promoting the track for the next six months. OBryan mentioned that at the Senate meeting, stakeholders said present promoter Lester Ashby of New Image Racing has not been fulfilling the conditions of his contract to operate and manage Clinton Phipps.
"By assuming the role of promoter, Housing, Parks, and Recreation has some more time to renovate the property," OBryan said.
He added that during this time, the government will also be able to obtain the necessary insurance for the racetrack.
"Right now, the government doesnt have anything in place to cover someone if they get hurt on the track," he said. "Its been one of the biggest impediments to having races on St. Thomas, and its time we did something about it."
At last Tuesdays Senate meeting, OBryan testified that he would be talking to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull about having the government pick up the tab for the insurance for the next "year or two." On Monday evening, OBryan said he has spoken to Turnbull about the matter, and it would now "be up to the Legislature to make an appropriation to for the insurance."
"We have to do whatever is necessary to jumpstart the horseracing industry on St. Thomas," he said.
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