Adoption of Summit County fairgrounds master plan delayed
When Cliff Blonquist learned that Summit County had purchased two properties adjacent to the current fairgrounds in Coalville, he supported the acquisition to expand the site rather than relocating the fair altogether.
Blonquist, who lives in Coalville, has been involved with the Summit County Fair and, more specifically, the rodeo, for more than 35 years. He was consulted by Landmark Design during the planning process.
But when the county unveiled the nearly $15 million design the public selected, he said his excitement started to wane.
“That’s a nice concept and there are some great things there, but you don’t have any chance to expand the fair if you go with this design,” Blonquist said on Wednesday during a public hearing. “I thought it would take in 150 East more and have plans for enhancing the river corridor. We have unique fairgrounds because we have the river.
“And it doesn’t address what we may need for the future. There are things we could do to get more bang for our buck, but this caps us,” he said.
The community’s preferred design relocates the rodeo and warm-up arena to the new parcel, along with an overflow parking lot for contestants. The carnival and vendors would be relocated to the space currently occupied by the rodeo and warm-up arenas, while the existing fairgrounds would feature permanent animal shelters, an outdoor amphitheater and pavilion, multi-purpose building, ball field, a community park and splash pad.
The upgrades would be funded through the county’s transient room tax, which currently has a reserve of approximately $6.5 million, and completed over the course of roughly 10 years.
On Wednesday, County Council members were scheduled to consider approving the plan, but delayed a decision after nearly an hour-long discussion. Councilors took issue with the project’s price tag and whether the design would allow for any future expansion.
“I don’t want to build a $15 million facility and then we say, ‘OK, we need to add more,” said Council Chair Roger Armstrong. “It needs to be built right.”
Earlier this month, councilors had expressed concern over the project’s phasing, in addition to the costs and lack of contributions of other stakeholders in the community. However, Matt Jensen, the county’s risk and procurement administrator and project lead, said staff found a way to complete the project in about three years and shave roughly $4 million off the estimated cost by delaying several features, including the playground, gazebo, splash pad and pedestrian bridges.
“We can reduce the costs to get it in the $10-to-$11 million range and we are hoping to get the costs down more,” Jensen said. “People realize this is a county facility and want to make sure the funds are properly applied to make this a year-round, classy facility that could be used by the county and community.”
Council member Chris Robinson suggested the project would be one of the county’s largest undertakings and deserves more scrutiny, adding “it’s a significant ticket.”
“It just gives me pause to make sure that we are doing the right thing and it makes me want to have an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Recreation District and Coalville that calls for their sharing in the capital costs instead of just assuming the county will foot the bill,” Robinson said. “When I look at that amount of money, we have not done other projects that have been anywhere near that.”
Tom Fisher, county manager, agreed that any contracts with other stakeholders — Coalville, North Summit Recreation District and North Summit School District – would need to be in place before the project is budgeted and construction is authorized.
Nathan Brooks, district manager of the North Summit Recreation District, offered the district’s support of the project at the hearing. He said “we would really love to endorse that and stand behind it.”
“We want to do our part to help alleviate some of what the council is taking on with this project,” Brooks said.
Council members agreed to reconvene with staff and representatives of Landmark Design to address the issues raised during Wednesday’s meeting. While a date has not yet been scheduled, it will likely happen soon because councilors are in the middle of budget discussions. The council plans to finalize details by Dec. 14.
“I would like to say this answers 100 percent of our problems. It does provide new facilities that will be usable and expandable and more accessible to our residents,” Jensen said. “I appreciate the concerns that have been brought up because it’s not the answer for every issue, but it’s a great start and vision.”
For more information about the design, go to http://summitcounty.org/802/Summit-County-Fairgrounds-Master-Plan. To see the staff report prepared for this meeting, go to http://summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/3964.
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Some parts of the project might be pushed until next spring, like paving the trails.