County board to further study fairgrounds needs

The Lincoln County Board is going to take a good, hard look at needed improvements to the Lincoln County Fairgrounds before moving forward with building a grandstand, or any other new seating structure. The board voted Tuesday morning to reject bids for a new grandstand. Also, a motion to approve a request for proposals for a berm system grandstand replacement structure was withdrawn.

The board directed the Public Property Committee to study the infrastructure needs of the fairgrounds, along with the costs of new seating structure options and return those findings to the board within 90 days.

The action to delay a grandstand project came after the board heard from County Maintenance Director Pat Gierl that the bathrooms at the fairgrounds would have to be addressed along with any new project to meet state codes. Gierl had been asked by the Public Property Committee to look into the fairgrounds restroom situation.

“We are currently not within code in the restroom facilities,” Gierl said. “As soon as we do any construction, we would have to update the restrooms.”
To simply bring the existing bathrooms up to code would cost an estimated $400,000, Gierl reported. With the addition of a new 2,500-3,000 seat venue, new facilities would be required and the cost would rise to an estimated $700,000.
“We do have to upgrade the bathrooms at a bare minimum of $400,000,” Gierl said.

Public Property Committee Chair Bill Zeitz said he had hoped the county could get by with the current bathrooms until after the grandstand replacement project had been settled.
“I knew the bathrooms were bad,” he said, “but I didn’t realize we could not do any projects – grandstand or berm – until the bathroom situation was addressed.”
The county has received $1.2 million from an insurance settlement to replace the grandstand, which was razed in 2012 after significant storm damage. The lowest bid the county received for a replacement grandstand would leave about $260,000 available. The time limit will expire on the grandstand bids before the fairgrounds study is done, so the project would need to be rebid if the county chooses to go that route, Administrative Coordinator Randy Scholz said.
In light of the restroom information, Supervisor Paul Gilk suggested the county take a closer look at the fairgrounds.
“Maybe it’s time to push forward the issue of the entire fairgrounds and the long term viability of that before we make decision about a grandstand, berm or bathrooms,” Gilk said.

Supervisor Frank Saal agreed, saying, “At times we’ve been too fixated on portions of the fairgrounds. Now we look at the broader view and see here’s three-quarters of a million dollars just to be compliant with the bathrooms.”

Supervisor Bob Lee added that the bathrooms aren’t the only maintenance issue at the fairgrounds.
“We’ve never mentioned those other buildings that need work,” he said. “We’ve got to rein the horse in and wait until we get some honest, true figures.”
Supervisor Carl Vandersanden made the motion to study needs at the fairgrounds.
“We have to figure out what the needs are and what the affordability is for those needs,” he said.

Zeitz said the committee already has the costs for a grandstand, and will start its study by getting costs for the berm system and the bathrooms.

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