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Drag strip developer approaches MCRA with new proposals

By Bruce Justice 06/05/2020

The contracted developer/promoter of the Twin Branch Motor Sports Complex at Myrtle says the more than two-year delay in getting the bond release for the access road leading up to the racing facility has prevented him from generating an income.

This was the motivation behind Pete Scalzo joining the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority's teleconference last week and the reason he presented a couple of new proposals for the board of directors to consider.

Due to the access road remaining under an effective mining permit which consequently prevents it from being used by the public until the bond is released, one proposal Scalzo offered for consideration was for the MCRA to compensate him by purchasing the track-related equipment he now owns which is required to operate the facility as a sanctioned drag strip.

Scalzo said the mining company having held the road bond permit--Booth Energy--is no longer operational and has sold its interests to another coal operator. He pointed out this new development will likely result in another long delay, as well as in the loss of another racing season and consequently add to his financial hardship.

MCRA Executive Director Leasha Johnson explained that Booth Energy sold the mining operation two weeks ago to Mitch Potter, the owner and operator of Coal-Mac, who currently also has an operation at the James H. Harless Industrial Park.

"I have not yet spoken with anyone affiliated with Mr. Potter's operation regarding the Twin Branch drag strip, but I plan to reach out to them after they've had time to digest the acquisition and put management and engineering personnel in place," Johnson said.

Johnson said the new mining company is likely already aware of the to-date discussions between Booth Energy, the MCRA and the West Virginia DEP regarding the the drag strip and the proposed release of the access road from the current mining permit.

"I'm sure (Coal-Mac officials) know about our ongoing discussions, particularly since the post mine land use designation of that mining permit — which was transferred from Southeastern Land (a subsidiary of Booth Energy) — was designated 'public use for recreational facilities,'" she said Scalzo said he would continue to honor his contract with the MCRA to operate the drag strip, as well as complete an ATV/UTV and motorcycle dirt track venue he plans to develop on about four acres of adjacent property, once the bond release has been finalized. The board reiterated to Scalzo that, for several reasons, the MCRA doesn't want to own the equipment and has no interest in purchasing it. Scalzo said he understood the board's reluctancy, particularly given the fact that the opening of the track remains contingent upon resolution of the regulatory requirements. Scalzo additionally expressed concern that the progress having already been made toward getting the road released might turn out to have been futile, suggesting that the new owner might ultimately have different plans for the property.

Both Johnson and advisory board member Terry Sammons explained that due to the AOC (approximate original contour) variance of the post mine land use having already been designated as “recreation facilities,” it would make any other form of post mine land use by Coal-Mac highly improbable. Board members Paula Blankenship and Brandon Sammons assured Scalzo by pointing out Potter has typically been community-minded in the past and that they expect he will be cooperative in helping to get the road released and the facility opened for drag racing and dirt track events. Scalzo additionally proposed that the MCRA consider paying him a consulting fee of $25,000 for his consulting work, as well as for the grounds maintenance work which he has performed at the facility up to this time. Board Chairman Paul Pinson reminded Scalzo that the MCRA has already spent a significant amount of money toward the development of the drag strip and ATV/UTV venue and that the agency would have to consider the matter further before agreeing to his request for a consulting fee.

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