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Bandimere cancels weekend races in dispute over compliance with public health orders

Jefferson County Public Health denied it has canceled any events after a Bandimere family statement said the speedway couldn't get JCPH approval.
Credit: Sky9

MORRISON, Colo. — Bandimere Speedway released a statement Friday that said it had canceled its weekend events because the speedway was unable to get approval from Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH).

JCPH released its own statement that said claims it was canceling events were inaccurate. The health department and the speedway have clashed over compliance with public health orders due to COVID-19.

"We understand the community’s desire to return to the events that bring them joy, but stand firm in our mission as the health department to keep our community safe," JCPH said in the statement.

The Bandimere statement said that the speedway attempted over three days to comply with restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One event at the speedway, the Truck Invasion, already was moved off this weekend due to expected large crowds. The Bandimere statement said drag racers were lining up at the speedway entrance when the event was canceled.

The Bandimere statement said that after being "admonished" by a Jefferson County judge to work with JCPH, a test race had to be canceled Wednesday night due to last-minute compliance requirements.

Following that cancellation, the Bandimere family said that JeffCo's Environmental Health Services director canceled a meeting to work on a plan for this weekend's scheduled events and future test nights.

In response to the claims above, JCPH said that there were no last minute compliance requirements, and that the only requirements for the event came through Public Health Order 20-28 issued by the state.

The state's order including guidelines for outdoor events have been in place since June 18, and JCPH said it is working with numerous outdoor organizers to help them operate while complying with the state's requirements.

JCPH said it issued Public Health Order 20-007 on July 20 because some venues were not complying with the state's guidelines for outdoor events. JCPH said its health order requires venues hosting outdoor events to submit plans showing compliance with Public Health Order 20-28.

JCPH also said the meeting was canceled after Wednesday's event was canceled, and said it's in their understanding the purpose for the meeting was discussing details for only Wednesday's event, and therefore was no longer needed.

JCPH said it has offered to schedule another meeting before events next week.

"Please know that multiple staff members at JCPH have spent many hours working directly with Bandimere via email, phone and several in-person meetings in an effort to help them become in compliance," said Ashley Sever, public affairs manager for JCPH. "While the state’s requirements are already clearly outlined, we have also provided Bandimere specific guidance on what to include in event plans as additional technical assistance."

JCPH said it is providing as much support to Bandimere as it can while also supporting hundreds of other businesses under its jurisdiction.

RELATED: Jeffco Public Health: Bandimere Speedway event violated court-ordered limits

JCPH pursued legal action earlier this month against Bandimere Speedway for an alleged violation of a public health order.

The alleged violation occurred during its 4th of July celebration when, according to JCPH, the speedway failed to follow agreed-upon court-ordered requirements during the Jet Car Nationals event.

The department said it was disappointed that the organization failed to limit and manage crowd sizes, implement social distancing requirements and adhere to COVID-19 requirements in Colorado Public Health Order 20-28.

In court, Johnson said he spoke with a member of the Bandimere family after the event and learned there were actually 7,500 people there.

According to health officials, to host more than 175 people, they would have to group people in designated activity areas and there would have to be at least 50 feet between them. Each group could consist of 175 people, and there should be limited interaction among members of each group.

John Bandimere III testified in court about the precautions they had put in place ahead of the event.

Bandimere also said his impression was that if the speedway was trying to do all the things they talked about with JCPH – protocols in place, educate people, spread people out – as long as the speedway could do that with much smaller numbers, they were going to be in compliance.

Attorneys for the speedway argued that the family should be given the benefit of the doubt.

“The fact that it didn’t work out the way everyone expected it to or hoped it might should not be the basis to basically hand over their events to the control of the county," Randy Corporon argued.

RELATED: Judge says injunction for Bandimere Speedway is 'moot' after new public health orders

A new public health order issued in Jefferson County late Monday made the issue of an injunction against Bandimere Speedway "moot," according to the judge overseeing the hearing.

Jefferson County Judge Tamara Russell on Tuesday refused to grant the injunction which, if granted, would have required Bandimere Speedway to submit safety plans to public health officials ahead of every event they host.

In a hearing Tuesday morning, it was brought up that a new public health order (PHO) went into effect at 5 p.m. Monday. It requires anyone hosting an event with more than 175 people to have a pre-approved safety plan. A mandate for face coverings also went into effect in Jefferson County after the last hearing that was held about the Bandimere Speedway.

Russell called the latest PHO "ill-timed" and said she was not sure whether she could issue an injunction to force the speedway to do something that's now required under the PHO.

To allow time to consider the new orders, Russell called a 20-minute recess.

When she returned, Russell said she did find evidence that the speedway was not in compliance with public health orders. She said the court also found that non-compliance with the health orders would result in a "significant risk of irreparable harm," which is something that the county had to prove in order to have its injunction granted.

Despite those two factors, Russell said she could not legally issue the injunction because they're also put in place to "preserve the status quo." She said when the new orders were issued, the status quo had already changed.

"I don't have evidence they haven't complied," she said, while noting she couldn't make her decision based on whether they would comply with the new guidelines in the future.

She also vacated a temporary restraining order (TRO) that had already been in place since early July, which required the venue in Morrison to comply with all public health orders related to COVID-19. However, Russell cautioned that Bandimere must still comply with all local and state orders even if they're challenging those orders in court.

"I assume I’ll see all of you right back here again if you [the county and Bandimere] don’t work together," she said.

The judge also rejected a counter claim by Bandimere Speedway which argued that the state and county health orders are "illegal and unenforceable," because she said it was an issue for another court because her job is not to make laws, but rather enforce them.

"Let me say this straight to Bandimere, you have to follow the law until you challenge them and they’re overturned," she said.

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RELATED: Jeffco Public Health: Bandimere Speedway event violated court-ordered limits

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