Just how right the Tooele County Commissioners need to be about selling the former Miller Motorsports Park for $20 million may now face the ultimate test. Also, Mitime Investment and Development Group’s commitment to Tooele County and its hope to buy the racetrack may be tested, too.
Such speculation comes to mind because it looks like the county’s plan to eventually sell the facility — through the county’s redevelopment agency — to Mitime without a long and costly court case has been dashed.
On Nov. 29, Third District Court Judge Randall Skanchy denied pre-trial motions for summary judgment filed by Tooele County and the county’s redevelopment agency. His decision was reported in last Thursday’s front-page story “Racetrack sale to RDA headed for long trial?”
In summary, those motions asked for the county to be allowed to proceed with selling what is now called Utah Motorsports Campus without a trial.
But Skanchy didn’t just say no to the county. He also denied pre-trial motions for summary judgment filed by Center Point Management that asked for the county commission to be directed to sell UMC to Center Point without a trial because Center Point offered a higher bid to buy the racetrack than Mitime in 2015.
The judge did take under advisement a motion from Center Point to put on hold the sale of UMC to the county’s RDA pending the outcome of the trial. He also took under advisement a motion from Tooele County to require Center Point to post bond to cover potential damages as a result of the lawsuit.
Skanchy apparently denied issuing a summary judgment because during the Nov. 29 hearing he often indicated genuine disputes over material facts between the county and Center Point remain.
Furthermore, whether or not the sale of the racetrack property for less than an offered bid constitutes fairness to the citizens of Tooele County is a debatable argument, not an undisputed fact, according to Skanchy.
All of which suggests when the judge finally renders a decision on the two motions under advisement, the next step is a trial. How long he will take to make those rulings is unknown.
And how long he takes, and the time an ensuing trial may require, is the test both the county commission and Mitime may face. For the commissioners, that test may include justifying attorney fees that could hit stratospheric heights — win or lose. And Mitime’s test? How long should the company wait for this dispute to settle before pursuing another deal elsewhere?
If Mitime decides not to renew its management contract with Tooele County to run the racetrack next year, several questions emerge, but two big ones stand out: If the racetrack sits idle for 2017, will it lose too much value? And without an approved buyer soon to take over the track, how much longer can the county cover the facility’s operating and maintenance costs, with a projected $3 million loss for 2016?
For local taxpayers those two questions are hard to swallow.
When big stakes and the need to be right collide, being right can exact a high price. The question now is: How high should the commissioners go on this one?