More money: Council to fix drag strip

RATEPAYERS will be forced to cough up more unbudgeted expenses for urgent repairs to the Swan Hill drag strip at Chisholm Reserve.

Swan Hill Rural City councillors approved to spend up to $170,000 at a special meeting last Friday, with concerns for racers using the track.

The drag strip will need to be repaired before a Jamboree event is held in November. Picture: PETER BANNAN

The drag strip will need to be repaired before a Jamboree event is held in November. Picture: PETER BANNAN

Mayor Ann Young said there were significant concerns for safety at the drag strip ahead of a major race meeting in November.

"The 2019 Garrett Melbourne Jamboree race is expected to bring over 2000 visitors to town with a positive impact on our local economy through food, accommodation and entertainment," she said.

"The Jamboree is running on the same week as the Street Machine Drag Challenge, which is also held at the drag strip, so Jamboree racers are expected to come early and stay in our region longer."

Council's director of infrastructure Svetla Petkova said the works were urgent due to the condition of the last 20 millimetres of the concrete and about the last 20mm of the asphalt where the concrete and the asphalt meet.

The Jamboree is a major event on the drag racing calendar.

"The drag club have notified that they are planning on holding a Jamboree event in November," she said.

"There are some dips and some high rises that will prevent the drag strip race to take place."

Central ward councillor Chris Jeffery asked Ms Petkova how much of ratepayers money was used to maintain the track.

Ms Petkova said almost half-a-million dollars had been spent on work for all users of the facility.

The drag strip was constructed over three years and was completed in October 2015, costing more than $2.5 million. Further works were completed in 2016 and 2017.

Robinvale representative Cr Jade Benham moved the motion with an amendment "that there is serious consideration of the viability of the strip as is and/or a rebuild and handover to the Swan Hill Drag Racing Club".

Central ward Cr Lea Johnson further requested a recommendation that: "council request an up-to-date debt level of the club and a full financial report".

The motion was seconded by Cr Johnson and Murray-Mallee ward Cr Nicole McKay.

A further amendment was requested by Cr McKay that council quantify the economic benefit of the upcoming jamboree event and report this to council post event.

All other councillors agreed to the motion, except Cr Jeffery who said the up to $170,000 was a "short-term solution".

Councillor Les McPhee was not present at the meeting.

Cr Benham said if the Jamboree didn't go ahead in Swan Hill in November, it would not return.

"It's far too late in the piece, it's nearly September and this event's due to go ahead in November," she said.

"And we've got a $3 million toy sitting there not getting used.

"So we do need to fix this and need to make this event an international class event for our entire region."

Swan Hill Rural City Council chief executive officer John McLinden said the Jamboree on November 16 and 17 would bring international interest to the region.

Council recommendations:

1. Council approves unbudgeted expenditure of up to $170,000 to complete the urgent repairs, funded from the better than forecast 2018/19 financial result.

2. Negotiates with the Swan Hill Drag Racing Club for funding of future and ongoing maintenance of the drag strip.

3. Subject to the agreement of the Swan Hill Drag Racing Club to fund the works, engage a consultant to investigate the condition and prepare a plan of future works during 2020.