A more than $3 million plan to renovate the Douglas County Fairgrounds has the County Commission’s “enthusiastic support” but won’t be going forward, at least not until further budget considerations are made and plan-supporters can provide more detailed information on maintenance and financing options as well as operational costs if the plan were approved.
The Fairgrounds Capital Improvement Project Committee presented the plan to the three commissioners Wednesday evening. It proposes razing two buildings currently on the site in favor of an open pavilion, park area and new meeting hall. It would cost somewhere between $3.3 million and $3.6 million.
Several community members also spoke in favor of the improvements and “were very persuasive,” commissioner Nancy Thellman said. Some of the speakers were concerned that the improvements would cause the county to raise the rental rates out of their price range. Currently, many of the restrooms at the site are not up to code.
Commissioner Jim Flory said he saw the fairgrounds as “an investment in the community,” but after Commissioner Mike Gaughan raised questions about costs beyond the initial capital costs to build the new structures, all three voted for a motion to continue with plan of feasibility but to reconvene later with more information. All three recognized that it would be difficult to find funding for the project as the commission goes into its budget hearings next month.
The commission unanimously approved to plat — or decide where streets, water lines and other infrastructure will go — county-owned land near the fairgrounds in an earlier portion of the meeting. This land is near the East Hills Business Park. The city plans to extend industrial development in the area, though the commissioners expressed concern about expanding the fairgrounds and using its property for the public. City Manager David Corliss said the master plan of industrial development didn’t prevent this, though the county would have to buy back the property to designate it for public use. The property will be platted with the idea it will be used for industrial, “primary job-creator” uses.
In other business, the commission also unanimously approved to move forward a proposed Neighborhood Revitalization Area tax rebate of 95 percent over 10 years for Landmark Investment Group, owners of the Cider Building (810-812 Penn.). It will now go to the City Commission.
The commission Wednesday also approved:
• Moving a proposal for a Joint Economic Development Council between county and city to next week’s consent agenda
• Allowing the Public Works Department to spend more than $45,000 on a GPS system for its vehicles, plus $25,248 to repair the county’s motor grader
• Paying for a portion of the county-owned United Way building’s new boiler
• Using Lone Star Lake and Marina for the seventh annual Midwest Mayhem Triathlon, to be held July 15.