Oct. 4, 2003 – Sen. Emmett Hansen II provided the pictures, but there also were plenty of words as his Housing, Parks and Recreation Committee met Thursday night on St. Croix to assess the status of the island's horse racing industry, which meant a look at what's been happening at Randall "Doc" James Race Track.
What's been happening, the committee and others present learned, is precious little in the way of upkeep. Among the issues then addressed were who's to blame and what's to be done.
Hansen showed a video shot on Wednesday when he visited the track. It showed "the lack of maintenance that has created an image of abandonment," according to a release from the Legislature issued on Friday.
Three entities are involved in the situation: the Housing, Parks and Recreation Department; the St. Croix Horse Racing Commission; and the V.I. Racing Corp., known as VIRCO.
VIRCO had been contracted to operated the track, but its lease/franchise was terminated for breach of contract.
HPR Commissioner Ira Hobson, after viewing the video, said he'd previously had "some knowledge of existing problems, but not to the extent of what was shown," the release stated.
Hobson told the committee that he has assigned Assistant Commissioner St. Claire Williams to rectify the problems. He also said it was "evident that VIRCO did not fully honor the lease agreement," but that the maintenance problems only got worse after the contract was terminated.
The Horse Racing Commission submitted written testimony stating that the Attorney General's Office had upheld the commission's position "that all maintenance and improvements to the horse racing facility were a part of the responsibilities outlined in the agreement with VIRCO."
According to the commission statement, there were "some positives" under VIRCO's management: "live horse racing, simulcasting, telephonic and electronic wagering."
The Senate committee asked that the commission provide it more information so as to enable the senators "to make more informed decisions" at a future date concerning the race track operations.
Committee members present for the hearing were Sens. Hansen, Luther Renee, Usie Richards and Celestino A. White Sr. The fifth member, Sen. David Jones, was not present. Also on hand was Sen. Ronald Russell, who is not a member of the committee.
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