The Douglas County Commission at its meeting Wednesday will consider approving a maximum price of approximately $2.35 million for the first phase of the Douglas County Fairgrounds renovation.
The cost of the full project was previously estimated at $6.5 million, which the county has secured in reserves. However, the updated budget for the full project is almost $7.2 million.
"As we have continued the design process and as we have further refined our cost estimates, we've gotten better budget numbers," Assistant County Administrator Sarah Plinsky said. "That budget estimate of $7.2 (million) is still being refined. I'm not asking the commissioners to approve that budget at this point in time."
Determining the source of the extra $700,000 for the full project will happen in the next few months, Plinsky said, but she is hoping commissioners will approve the guaranteed maximum price for the first phase of the project on Wednesday so abatement and demolition can begin as soon as Monday.
The area of Phase 1 — for which Plinsky said funds have already been set aside — surrounds what the public knows today as Buildings 1 and 2, in the southwest portion of the fairgrounds. The buildings will be demolished and replaced with the new meeting hall. Phase 1 also includes some grading, utilities, north and south parking lots and more.
Plinsky said she hopes that in the next few months, the construction documents and firm bids should be in place for the rest of the project, which includes an Open Pavilion, arena and restroom building, site improvements and the outdoor event space, formerly known as the Derby Arena.
"As we continue to refine those estimates, we're going to bring back the total project budget to commissioners as part of our capital improvement planning process, and they can make a decision on if we have the funds available to pay for the increased project budget," she said.
The outdoor event space has been one of the biggest challenges to the project, Plinsky said, and has caused some delay.
"There's a lot of dirt that has to be moved for that arena, and part of the complication has been figuring out how much dirt and how much site work, grading, has to be done, associated with that last phase of this entire project," Plinsky said.
Right now, everything on the fairgrounds site is still fully operational, which Plinsky said has been a priority.
"Because we're trying to keep the fairgrounds open and operational throughout construction as much as possible, but (the outdoor arena involves) moving a significant amount of dirt and doing a significant amount of regrading, it presents quite a challenge in developing the site plan and the grading plan," she said.
Also on Wednesday's agenda, commissioners will:
• Discuss a joint project with the city of Lawrence to renovate the Fire Station No. 1 and Douglas County Senior Services building, 746 Kentucky St.
• Consider appointing John Bullock, of Stevens & Brand Law Firm, as county counselor.
• Consider recommendations from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical Chief Mark Bradford for increasing ambulance and emergency medical service fees.
• Consider approving an engineering agreement with BG Consultants Inc. for realignment of the Hamm Landfill Access Road, a joint project with Jefferson County, at a cost not to exceed $47,932.
The Douglas County Commission meets at 4 p.m. each Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. A full meeting agenda is available online at douglascountyks.org.