Miami County plans $10 million in fairgrounds upgrades

Crews do shoring work on the trusses of the grandstand before the 2021 Miami County Fair. More repairs and improvements are planned for the fairgrounds. CONTRIBUTED

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Crews do shoring work on the trusses of the grandstand before the 2021 Miami County Fair. More repairs and improvements are planned for the fairgrounds. CONTRIBUTED

American Rescue Plans will help pay for work.

The Miami County commissioners are deciding the parameters for county fairgrounds improvement projects that carry estimated costs of more than $10 million.

Projects in the late stages of planning include an all-in-one administrative/exhibit building to replace the early 1900s Secretary’s Office and improvements to the 1916 fairgrounds’ Grandstand.

Another piece of the overall project is the fairgrounds’ utility infrastructure, which is under evaluation by consultants with discussions to be held first with the county fair administration. A project scope and costs will be developed for presentation to commissioners.

All three projects likely will receive a portion of their funding from the county’s American Rescue Plan, or ARPA, funds.

The county is working with WDC Group of Springfield on the fairgrounds projects.

The commissioners met recently with WDC Group’s Chris Widener, principal, and Jason Funderburg, project manager. Also participating in the meetings was Nick Shellenberger, fair manager and fair board president.

“We are thrilled the projects are moving forward,” Shellenberger said.

He said the fair board has been collaborating with the commissioners and consultants and, although it doesn’t have much money to commit to such a large project, is working on in-kind donations from companies willing to assist in the projects.

WDC Group is designing the administrative/exhibit building after being selected by the county recently for the project. A project concept design earlier was done by Goodall Design of Troy for use in discussing project elements and other issues.

The building is proposed as the new home of the agricultural society/fair secretary’s office along with offices for agriculture related agencies including the Farm Bureau, Soil and Water Conservation District, Fam Service Agency and the Ohio State University’s Miami County Extension Office. The building plan also includes an exhibit hall area.

The all-in-one building’s estimated cost was $7 million. Bidding for the building is targeted for October with construction substantial completion by July 30, 2023. The county’s fair is held in August.

Widener discussed with commissioners the project to repair the grandstand, which has 2,970 seats and underwent work to reinforce the roof structure before last year’s fair.

The consultants recommend replacing the concrete stairs versus repairing, other concrete repairs and painting and a new drainage system along with gutters and downspouts and structural steel repairs. Grandstand lighting needs replaced along with sound system and electric overhead lines on the track, Widener said.

The estimated cost was listed at $2.4 million plus another $870,000 in bid alternate projects were suggested for consideration including restroom rehabilitation, kitchen and storage area renovations, new aluminum seating and painting underside of bleachers.

The grandstand project timeline is September through June 30, 2023.

The cost of replacing the grandstand would be more expensive “by quite a bit,” Widener said.

Commissioner Greg Simmons said he favors repairing the current grandstand. “I like what we have,” he said.

“It is a unique grandstand, so we definitely want to preserve as much as we can,” Shellenberger said.

The commissioners later met with county Auditor Matt Gearhardt and others to discuss the best way to pay for the fairgrounds and other major county projects, including a new One Stop Center for vehicle-related agencies.

They discussed paying cash from county reserves for work done covered by ARPA at the fairgrounds and borrowing through notes and then bonds for the One Stop Center.

The cost of One Stop project was estimated at around $7.2 million with bids opened last week ranging from $6.2 million to $6.9 million.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com.

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