Benton County commissioners confirmed Friday that despite terminating the Sun Downs Training Center contract earlier this week, the county fairgrounds in Kennewick will continue to be available for equestrian activities.
"The commissioners remain committed to the fairgrounds and its users," stated the press release issued Friday afternoon from the commissioners' office.
"The racetrack, arena and stables will continue to be open and used for equine-related events and are currently being used by the Tri-City Barrel Racing Association and the Sheriff's Posse," the release stated.
Commissioners also said John Donley, fairgrounds office manager, is trying to help Friday Night Lights members keep their event on the fairgrounds by arranging for a different event holder. Sun Downs Training Center has previously sponsored Friday Night Lights events. which are barrel racing events held at night that are open to the public.
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Commissioners also plan to request proposals from anyone interested in contracting directly with the county on use of the racetrack and stables.
Bob Lawrence, who ran Sun Downs Training Center, told the Herald on Thursday that the county terminated his contract over what he called a misunderstanding.
Audra Harding of Kennewick, who has been involved in equestrian events at the fairgrounds for years, said she is disappointed that Lawrence has been forced out.
"He kept it going and made sure everything was ready for the horse people to come in and use it," Harding said.
Lawrence began running the training center two years ago, she said.
"We don't know what's going to happen now. He was running the show," Harding said.
The commissioners' news release Friday stated that "serious contract compliance issues regarding insurance coverage, subcontracting guidelines and outstanding invoices" triggered the termination, which requires Lawrence to be off the fairgrounds by Thursday.
Lawrence could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
The contract was for $20,000 plus utilities from Oct. 1, 2011 to June 1, 2012. It was renewable for October 2012 to June 1, 2013 for another $20,000 plus utilities.