Dec. 4, 2006 — The final St. Croix meeting of the 26th Legislature's Committee on Housing, Sports and Veterans Affairs focused on "burning rubber" and the state of drag racing on the big island.
Committee members, meeting Monday at the Cormorant Beach Club and Hotel, heard testimony on behalf of the Caribbean Drag Racing Association (CDRA) and its plea for funds to repair the track and make the pastime a sports tourism draw.
Currently the track has been severely affected by inclement weather, which brought to light a problem with the sewer system surrounding the area. May Adams Cornwall, V.I. Waste Management Authority executive director, said the authority had some responsibility in repairing the track's ruptured manhole, which caused water overflow and sewage debris to seep onto the track.
"We sincerely regret any overflow to any area in this community," Cornwall testified. She said WMA and CDRA have agreed the authority would "clean the drag-strip surface and the adjacent roadside areas and return to inspect and evaluate the road conditions." Cornwall said work had not begun because of weather conditions.
Representatives from CDRA said the overflow problems began mid-October, and, because of damage to the strip, races have been canceled, causing a loss in revenue for the association.
Sen. Juan Figueroa-Serville agreed the repairs to the road were necessary but asked CDRA representatives to explain why government needed to appropriate funds beyond those already in place.
CDRA Treasurer Gary Thomas outlined the damage affecting the track and said the association would need more than $300,000 to complete the repairs needed to make the surface smooth for cars to travel at top speed. "The whole surface needs to be revamped because a vehicle meant to go over 200 miles per hour doesn't do too well with any damage to the road; it must have a level surface all the way through," Thomas said.
CDRA President Vincent Ebberson added that the industry attracts sports tourism dollars to St. Croix. He said previous races have "brought people in that affect major industries," like hotels, taxi and other local businesses.
Ebberson said their biggest race of the year is during the Christmas season, which invites racers from all over the United States and the Caribbean to come to the island for high-speed fun. With the overflow and sewage problems affecting the area, "the prognosis for Christmas is real bleak," Ebberson said.
Goldsherdine Bruney, better known as "Ms. V" to fellow racers, said she was "real depressed" by the conditions on the track. She has not been able to race since early October, and said she is anxious for the situation to be resolved so she could return to "burning rubber."
"It has come to a point where the fans keep asking when there will be another race, and all I can say is the repairs are estimated to be completed by December," Bruney said.
Figueroa-Serville told testifiers he believed in government aiding private and public entities for economic development but said "people seem to think the Legislature is a fountain for funds."
He said the racing industry could be lucrative in drawing sports tourism dollars to the island's economy and that projects like this could also be a boost for community togetherness. "We need to do things that will help bring about more healthy entertainment for our families," he said.
Figueroa-Serville was visibly moved by his final act as committee chair as he banged the gavel for the last time, signaling the meeting's close.
Sens. Ronald Russell and Pedro Encarnacion were in attendance. Sens. Louis P. Hill and Liston Davis were excused, while Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Celestino A. White were absent from the proceedings.
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