Motor-sports park builder pays off bill

MERCED -- Riverside Motorsports Park officials have paid off the last of their debt to Merced County.

After months of delay, RMP officials mailed a $21,000 check to the county last week, spokeswoman Katie Albertson said Wednesday. The county received the check Sept. 28. "At this point, RMP has no outstanding debt with the county," Albertson said.

In December, the county approved RMP's plans to build a 1,200-acre, $250 million motorsports complex near Atwater. The company proposed the project five years ago.

In August, county officials said the Planning Department had ceased doing work on RMP's behalf because RMP failed for months to make more than $150,000 in delinquent payments to the county. Soon after, RMP paid the county about $130,000. But county officials said work on the project wouldn't resume until the entire bill was paid off.

About two-thirds of the bill stemmed from lawsuits filed against the county for approving RMP's plans. Shortly after the Board of Supervisors voted to approve RMP's proposal, the company signed an agreement promising to reimburse the county for legal expenses it incurs as a result of the project. The rest of the money was owed to the Planning Department for the time its staff has spent reviewing RMP's proposal.

Last month, an RMP official met with the county's attorney and several county planning officials to discuss the remaining balance on the bill. RMP officials said they believed the outstanding charges included some double-billings, but agreed after the meeting that wasn't the case.

Albertson said the stay on work for RMP has been lifted. The county and RMP are negotiating a payment schedule for future work.