County Board votes to move forward with replacing grandstand
A resolution passed by the Lincoln County Board last Tuesday has set the ball rolling for the replacement of the grandstand in the Lincoln County fairgrounds. The grandstand was demolished after suffering significant wind damage just prior to last year’s Lincoln County Fair.
The Board voted 10-7 in favor of going forward to replace the structure with a grandstand – rather than a proposed expo center. Several factors went into the decision to take the next step in building a new grandstand, including financial restraints.
According to Administrative Coordinator Randy Scholz, the $1.2 million insurance settlement for the grandstand will cover the cost of replacing it with a like structure. The county would require approval from the insurance company in order to use the funds to create a different building without a guarantee of receiving the same amount of coverage.
Building an expo center would require millions of dollars beyond what the insurance settlement will provide.
Supervisor Jim Alber introduced the resolution to the County Board, seeking a vote on replacing the grandstand with a grandstand.
“From my position, I presented this resolution to get on with building the grandstand that is built into the insurance coverage,” Alber said. “I wanted to move forward with a sure thing.”
Another area of concern was that of time restraints. The county was initially told that they had six months to replace the grandstand by the insurance company, that time frame has been extended to two years. It is still unclear exactly if that time period means that construction must be started within those two years, or if it must be finished by then.
The next step in the replacement process of the grandstand is for the maintenance director to create a request for proposal (RFP). This RFP was to be presented to the Board for a vote at the May 21 meeting, but the Public Property Committee passed a resolution to postpone the vote on the RFP until July 2013, allowing the Public Property Committee time to assess the RFP first.
“It (RFP) creates the guidelines for preparing for the bidding process,” Alber said. “That is the information that gets publicized for people to bid on.”
This resolution to move forward with the grandstand has had a great deal of backlash from several board members and members of the community. Up until this decision, the possibility of replacing the grandstand with an expo center had held a great deal of interest.
A user group was created by the County Board last November to utilize and promote the fairgrounds for the benefit of the county. This group came up with the initial plans to create an expo center at the fairgrounds. They estimated the cost of completing an expo center for the fairgrounds to be at about $7 million. Agra Industries of Merrill volunteered its services to come up with a concept for the expo center and offered to contribute toward the project either financially or through its expertise as a metal fabricator.
In November, the County Board gave its blessing to the creation of an expo center organization, which would officially manage and promote the fairgrounds. That organization is still in the formative phase.
“I would hope that when the dust settles and we have our bylaws and business plans complete (for the expo center organization), and we would have the opportunity to present them to the Board, they would use their wisdom and see the merit of the long-range benefit to the county government and the people of Lincoln County,” said Bill Zeitz, District 9 Supervisor and chair of the county’s Public Property Committee.
While the Board’s decision to pass the resolution to replace the grandstand is in place, that does not mean there will be no expo center for Lincoln County. The funds for building an expo center will have to be raised through different means other than using the payout from the insurance claim.