Continue making repairs or tear down and start over — that question about the Trowbridge Pavilion at the Grant County Fairgrounds drew heated debate during the county court’s Aug. 28 meeting.
Fairgrounds Manager Mindy Winegar appeared to update the court and make several requests, but when Commissioner Sam Palmer reported that numerous people had tripped and fallen in the pavilion during the fair, members of the public called for quick action.
Roots from large trees along the north side of the building have forced the pavilion’s concrete floor to heave and crack. County road department personnel are scheduled to remove the trees and rip up the roots this fall, Winegar said.
A contractor who looked over the pavilion concluded that fixing the concrete floor would depend on the condition of the stem wall and its footings, Winegar said.
Dusty Williams, the fairgrounds maintenance manager, said repairing the concrete floor could cost $80,000 to $100,000. Installing two oil-burning forced-air furnaces could cost $17,000. He suggested it might make more sense to build a new building.
Winegar presented drawings from 1996 for a new pavilion. The cost at the time was about $1.5 million, but it might be $3 million now, she said.
The pavilion is a busy place year-round with yard sales, workshops, benefit dinners, memorial services, Christmas and spring bazaars, gun shows, youth benefits and quilt shows. Shutting it down for any length of time would be a hardship on the community on top of the lost revenue for the county, Commissioner Jim Hamsher said.
Hamsher called for fixing the pavilion’s stem wall footings if possible and pouring a new concrete floor where necessary. He also called for installing piping in the floor for radiant heat and using a wood-fired boiler that would protect the county from fluctuating oil prices. The hot water pipes could be trenched over to Keerins Hall, which also needs a heating system upgrade, he said.
Palmer disagreed, saying the tripping hazard justified a new building. Grant County Economic Development Coordinator Allison Field suggested applying for a grant to pay for an overall vision for the fairground, including upgrades to Keerins Hall and the small animals barn.
It made more economic sense to fix Trowbridge Pavilion, Hamsher said, noting that if the public wanted improved appearance, a facade could be added to make it resemble the 1996 images. He pointed out that the money spent in 1996 on plans for a new pavilion would have been better spent on removing the trees and fixing the concrete floor.
Jim Sproul and Judy Kerr called for fixing the current building, but County Judge Scott Myers disagreed.
Beth Spell called for an engineer’s professional opinion, and Jim Spell called for building a new pavilion. Frances Preston called the discussion “unhealthy” and said she wanted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration involved because a hazard had been identified.
Hamsher said that wasn’t a good idea. As the discussion wound down, Preston threatened to call OSHA right away. Williams noted that a Forest Service fire camp currently was set up at the fairgrounds and would be impacted.
Other problems at the pavilion could be addressed by either a major repair or a new building. The restrooms are not ADA-compliant, and the overhead lighting needs to be upgraded. The court agreed to advise Winegar to consult with an engineer on the stem wall footings.
The court also approved spending $7,100 for 15 heavy-duty metal picnic tables for the RV park and $95 per month for a new online reservation system.
The RV park got 10 new picnic tables last year. The old ones will find uses around the fairgrounds, Winegar said. She also received a $19,000 estimate for new outdoor lighting in the parking area. A contractor for that work could be chosen in September, she said.