MINGO COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Tensions were high during the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority (MCRA) meeting with a focus on the long-awaited drag strip that opened briefly last year but has remained closed since.
During the meeting, board members say they are all for bringing a drag strip to the region, but a $1 million loan, that was approved by the State of West Virginia specifically for the drag strip, has been the biggest obstacle.
According to MCRA Executive Director Leasha Johnson, state officials issued the loan as part of a financial agreement with former owner Tom Wilson in 2018.
Johnson says the original financial agreement with Wilson was that they wouldn’t have to start paying off the loan until the drag strip started making a profit. However, the property was relinquished to the MCRA after a soft opening last year.
Johnson also says there were glaring issues, including Wilson’s inability to provide the proper insurance, which almost shut the track down the night before the soft opening, and the fact the track itself was being used at night, violating the lease agreement.
“He was only insured on those specific dates because it was never intended for us to allow him to go up there morning, noon, day, and night and run that facility willy-nilly and expose us to a ton of liability. We specifically did not allow racing at night until there were lights and there were no lights. That was a violation of the lease,” Johnson says during Thursday’s meeting.
Board members also mentioned possibly relinquishing the Twin Branch Drag Strip property over to the state, which would forgive the loan but the state would have the final say on what the property is used for.
County drag racers like Jimmy Finley say if this does happen, they will continue to fight for their drag strip, urging state officials to fulfill the dream of having a hometown race track.
“If they relinquish it to the state we’ll have to move on to the state. My hope would be to relinquish to someone here locally who actually cares about the area. I hope the state isn’t just gonna give up on it and throw something up there that the county really doesn’t need,” Finley says Friday evening.
As of this past month, the redevelopment authority still owns the drag strip. It’s unclear if it’s been turned over to the state since then.
13 News has reached out to the redevelopment authority and state officials for more information but has not received a response yet. This is a developing story.