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NOW, THE ECO-NOMIC CHALLENGE

Businesses who supplied services to the Utah Eco-Challenge event in April want to be paid. Officials of the ultra-endurance race are asking them to be patient.

Patience, however, is wearing thin with some, and at least one firm has filed a lawsuit seeking payment.Brian Terkelsen, promoter of the event, said he has not seen the suit as yet.

Bottom line, though, is that there isn't one.

"Right now, we have no money. We're out trying our hardest to collect some early payment to meet our obligations. At no time have we told anyone we aren't going to pay them. We fully intend to meet all of our obligations. They will all get their money."

One report put the debt at around $100,000. Terkelsen would only say the amount owed was in the "six figures."

Several of those left without full payment are in the Moab area. Among them are several boatmen who rely on daily wages. Because of it, one local resident said the name Eco-Challenge "is a dirty word around here. I'm out five days' wages."

Steve Hazlett, manager of World Wide River Expeditions in Moab, said his company received a $1,000 deposit but that the remaining $6,500 hasn't been paid.

"I made several calls and could never could get a response. Finally, I got a hold of Brian and he told me that we'd get our money. That was about a month ago," he said.

Terkelsen said protests agtainst the event are the reason for the company's financial troubles. And, he continued, while some companies have not been paid in full, "many more have."

Other river companies say they have been paid. Steve Sarten, manager owner of North American River Expeditions, said his experiences with the event were good, "and, yes, we've been paid in full." The people at NAVTEC Expeditions also said they've been paid. Bryan Merrill of Western River Expeditions, said he's received all but the final payment. "But as part of the agreement we are using $30,000 worth of their boats, so I'm not worried."

"We've paid out more than $2 million so far. The over-run on expenses for this event were about 35.5 percent above what we planned. For example we looked at other events of the kind and figured the cost of our permit (with the BLM) cut to be in excess of $130,000," he said.

Kate Kitchell, district manager for the BLM, said the bill has been paid and added that the high costs were due to the sensitive nature of the race.

"There was a lot of opposition to this event. We had more than 700 comments. The costs were high because it was a sensitive and controversial event. We have very specific hours with respect to both pre- and post-race environmental analysis, as well as time for post event reports and field monitoring," she said.

More than 40 BLM personnel were involved in monitoring the event. Eco-Challenge officials reimbursed the government for their time and expenses. A report put out this week said the event had little direct impact on the area, but did note minor violations that resulted in two citations and a $200 fine.

Eco-Challenge was also required to put up an $80,000 bond that will be returned after full compliance with the permit. One of the last requirements centers around the airing of an MTV special on Sept. 8.

Mark Henderson, owner of Classic Helicopter service in Woods Cross, filed suit in 2nd District Court seeking $34,500 owed his company.

Martin Szuch of M&S Communications in Rhode Island, reported that Eco-Challenge failed to return $55,000 in radio equipment. Terkelsen said his staff collected the radios and "returned them to (Szuch's) people. Where they went from there, I have no idea."

The event began on April 27 near Castle Dale. Fifty teams of five members each rode horses, ran, biked, rappeled, rafted and canoed for about 370 miles. The event finished up on May 3 at Bullfrog Marina on Lake Powell.

Eco-Challenge has held two smaller events since the Utah race. Plans are under way for the 1996 race, which will be held in British Columbia, Canada. Ten teams have already registered.

Will Eco-Challenge return to Utah? Terkelson said his group is keeping the door open.

"We would do some things differently, though. We wouldn't hold it in a wilderness designated area, we would route the course differently and we might choose a different time of year," he said.