Thunder in the Valley has received the city’s stamp of approval to run on Stamp Avenue next August. And the City of Port Alberni has agreed to foot a $93,000 bill for modifications to the road so the drag racing event can go ahead.
In a report to city council, finance director Cathy Rothwell and city engineer Guy Cicon laid out the extra costs to the city—costs that didn’t exist when the event was run out at the airport. The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, which operates the airport, has terminated its contract with Thunder in the Valley due to impending expansion of the runway this summer.
“We’ve identified the main issues that may arise from holding Thunder in the Valley on Stamp Avenue,” said Cicon.
“That’s public liability insurance, roadway preparation roadway closure and signage and concrete barriers.”
Roadway preparation is estimated to cost the city approximately $40,000.
“That’s the median down the centre of the road that we would just remove, build up the base and repave it,” Cicon said. Line painting would have to occur after the event.
Coun. Chris Alemany asked whether or not removing the median could play into the city’s proposal to install bike lanes along Stamp Avenue.
Cicon said that it likely would not help, citing a need for left turn lanes in the centre lane of Stamp Avenue even without a median.
Concrete barriers would need to be procured in order to guarantee the safety of spectators at a cost of $33,000.
“These are concrete barriers that we would need to separate the viewers from the traffic,” Cicon said.
It’s possible that the city can get the barriers at no cost from the ministry of transportation, he added.
“There may be quite a few more, that if we get them transferred here, we wouldn’t have to buy them. So that [$33,000] could go down.”
Liability insurance was identified by Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association president Bill Surry as a possible showstopper. The extra $20,000 premium will pay for an extra $20 million of liability insurance, above the $15 million the AVDRA already carries for past Thunder in the Valley events at the airport.
Rothwell’s report stated that the city had consulted with its insurers and a race event insurance expert in Edmonton with the following con-clusion: “At the end of the day, it is the city’s business decision to make but I would suggest they consider not allowing this event.”
Councillors questioned the insurance estimates.
“I’m wondering about the insurance. I think what Thunder in the Valley has had in the past is $15 million and we are looking at an additional $20 million for a total of $35 million.
“Is that an appropriate amount of insurance? Why do we need to go so much higher?” Coun. Sharie Minions asked.
Surry said that they had gone from $5 million to $15 million upon the ACRD’s request.
“We originally started out with $5 million at the airport but the regional district asked us to change that so we ended up with $15 million,” Surry said.
The reason for the increased insurance was location-based, Rothwell told council.
“Thunder in the Valley was formerly held at the airport, which is a much safer, less complicated area to hold it,” she said.
“Going to $35 million, I’m not an actuary, I don’t know what might happen, but I would think that $35 million is likely adequate barring any really unbelievable disasters.
“Our insurance people aren’t really comfortable with the whole idea anyway—$35 million is probably the minimum that they would really even look at.”
Surry said he still wasn’t sure why the estimate was so high.
“Cathy [Rothwell] and I phoned and checked through our insurance people and they thought this amount of money was ludicrous. I don’t know how we arrived at $35 million.”
The extra $20,000 isn’t something that the AVDRA could pay itself.
“The extra $20,000 actually makes it cost prohibitive to run the event,” said Surry.
“The insurance is just baffling us because this is a much safer site. If you went off the track at the airport, you can run there for a hundred feet before you hit a barrier. Here, you’re inside the barriers. That’s why we wanted the barriers down either side so that if they do get out of hand they bounce against them and they’re back in and it’s over.”