The City of Port Alberni will front an extra $25,000 to ensure that Thunder in the Valley runs safely down Stamp Avenue while working with the drag racing association on a repayment plan.
“We ran a test on Stamp Avenue which was successful but told us also of a safety hazard,” Alberni Valley Drag Race Association president Bill Surry told council on Monday.
The four-car test run took place on Stam Avenue June 7.
Surry identified three extra projects totalling $31,500—expanding the burnout box, removing the last remaining median between Catalyst Paper and the Barclay Hotel and tree clearing and brushing to make room for spectators and improve sight lines.
“We are willing to work with the city on these projects,” said Surry.
The AVDRA will cover the widening of the burnout box (two metres per side) at a cost of $5,000 and the tree clearing at a cost of $1,500 but asked for the city to cover the $25,000 cost of removing the other median.
“Really what we’re looking for is to have the median removed, which I do believe should have been done in the first place,” said Surry.
Coun. Dan Washington asked Surry if not removing the median would be a show stopper.
“It is right at the end [of the track]. Cars are at a very high speed at that time and when we did the test run, we found out they were within eight inches of that [median],” said Surry.
“If somebody hits that median it’s going to be catastrophic.”
Coun. McLeman said that while he didn’t like paying more money, there was no point pulling out now.
“We have committed to having the drags there for a period of time while you’re finding a better place to get a whole quarter-mile again,” said McLeman, citing the economic benefit of the race.
“It’s one of the biggest events that happens and we’d like to see it keep going.”
When Surry originally came to city council early in 2016 to ask for the city’s permission and help in putting on Thunder in the Valley along Stamp Avenue, he asked for $93,000—$20,000 for extra liability insurance, $33,000 for barriers and $40,000 for median removal.
The request for extra insurance was withdrawn after the AVDRA agreed to get extra insurance for the event themselves, leaving the city spending $73,000.
An extra entrance way onto the Catalyst Paper property was also created. Acting CAO Tim Pley said that while that entrance way did not put the city over its $73,000 budget for event preparation work, the city had exhausted that full amount and had no more budgeted for median removal.
“Would there be an appetite for the Thunder in the Valley group to pay that $25,000 over a period of time?” Coun. Ron Paulson asked Surry.
“It would really help us out.”
Surry said that with the event altered they don’t know what their budget will be like in forthcoming years, but they are open to negotiating.