Challenges remain for fair building proponents

by karla pomeroy

A discussion about fair entertainment at Monday’s Big Horn County Fair Board meeting turned into a discussion about the location for the new multi-purpose indoor youth facility and whether funding for the new facility was secured and if the building would even be constructed.

After much discussion, the board could not agree on whether to locate the building to the south or west of the current main facility. They decided to let the architect make that determination during the design phase of the project. If it is determined that the best location is to the south, the board likely will ask for construction not to begin until after fair so as not to interfere with the water park this year and the free stage act.

County Maintenance Supervisor Fred Werner expressed concern about where the free stage would be located if the building takes up the south lawn area of the grounds.

Funding?

But the biggest question remaining for the board is not where the building will be located but if it will be constructed. The board has received two extensions from the Wyoming Business Council for its $500,000 grant. The WBC Board has granted the extensions for the fair board to gather the necessary matching funds.

Big Horn County Clerk Lori Smallwood said there still needs to be $26,756 collected to meet the match by the Feb. 15 deadline set by the WBC. Another extension would have to be requested if it is not met.

Tim Flitner, via telephone, said that he and fellow facilities committee member and fair board member Casey Sorenson are about “tapped out on this,” noting they have run out of people, businesses and organizations to contact for donations.

“People are not hearing us anymore. We’ve got to have other avenues,” Flitner said. “I’m going to be very disappointed if this thing doesn’t go.”

He said there are enough pledges outstanding if the money could be collected, noting specifically $10,000 pledged by Synergy, the company awarded the construction contract by the board.

Board member Andy Perkins said he would approach the company about collecting on the pledge before the deadline. At Tuesday’s commissioner meeting it was reported the Perkins would have a check Tuesday night.

Flitner said he had received another $20,000 pledge from Granite Peak LLC, a company who has already donated $30,000. He said   they were hoping to use the funds for other things once the building was constructed but he may be able to talk to the company and get it secured for the construction.

He asked Commissioner Jerry Ewen, who was in attendance at the meeting, if the county could help until the funding was actually in hand.

Ewen said he could not speak on behalf of the entire County Board of Commission but said he would support a request if there certainty about the project and certainty the funding would be there. At Tuesday’s meeting, after some discussion, the commissioners voted to loan the fair board up to $16,000 if necessary to meet the matching funds. Flitner told the commissioners Tuesday that he felt certain the Granite Peak $20,000 would be coming once construction began but not in time for the Feb. 15 deadline.

Flitner said the $30,000 already provided by Granite Peak has not been earmarked for anything specific, but he verbally offered having a meeting room named in honor of the company.

Clerk concerns

Smallwood said there are other questions and concerns that the board needs to be aware of. She said the Daniels Fund $85,000 must be expended by Sept. 2, 2014, or another extension would have to be requested. The Daniels Fund money was to be used for costs of phase 1 — the building shell, insulation, lighting and accessible bathrooms.

Restrictions on the consensus block grant funding of $120,000 from the Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board includes only 20 percent allowed on engineering costs, detailed invoicing is required and Davis Bacon laws must be complied with by all contractors.

The Wyoming Business Council funding of $500,000 has a limit of $46,750 on non-construction/engineering costs.

The award for that funding stipulates the building is a 24,000 square foot facility, connected by a breezeway to an existing fair building, Americans with Disabilities accessible restroom and locker room facility. Any deviation would require prior approval of the WBC.

Smallwood also noted that a contract for services has still not been approved or signed with Synergy. She said the sample contract the company sent needs work.

Last month the board agreed the need for fencing around the construction site would have to be included in any contract.

Carrizales wondered who would handle a lot of the paperwork. Sorenson said if things are set up at the beginning for invoicing, etc. it shouldn’t be too cumbersome.

He added, “The bad thing is I’m not committed.” He added that it is a huge project and wondered if the board is pushing for something that will not go or that should not go forward.

Ewen said, “You guys are pretty deep into this. The train left the station a long time ago. It’s time to hit the whistle or hit the brakes,” Ewen said.

Carrizales said if it was up to him, “I would hit the brakes because we can’t even decide where the building will be located.”

Perkins said the building location is not a big deal with the architect deciding the best location. He added that the board will know in 10 days if the funding is available for the project to move forward.

Commission concerns

During discussion at Tuesday’s Big Horn County commissioner meeting on whether to give the fair board a loan to meet the match for the WBC grant, Commissioner Keith Grant said,  “I have concerns about the loosey goosey way it’s all came about. It hasn’t come to this point in a good managed process. Who’s going to drive it (when they get the funding)? Are we going to pay Willie (Bridges, county engineer) to watch over it. How do we make sure things don’t fall here?”

Ewen admitted he came away from Monday’s fair board meeting with some “deep concerns. I don’t see anyone on the fair board to lead the way.”

Bridges said someone should be appointed to represent the “owner,” the county. He said the fair board is the ones who can say what they need and who will manage the facility. “I don’t think they are the entity who should provide the oversight. They don’t have the time and expertise,” he said.

While he said his donation of $20,000 for in-kind services from Pryor Mountain Engineering falls under the category, it will not be enough to cover all the costs of oversight. “A project of this scope is going to take a lot of time and a lot of energy.”

The board then spoke to Flitner via telephone and Flitner assured them the board is becoming unified and he spoke to Carrizales and Tuesday about that specific issue.

He admitted to the commissioners that the building committee had not given thought to who would be the contact person or the owners’ representative. He said those costs were not part of the financial planning but admitted it made sense to have such a person.

“In my own ignorance I’ve been so consumed about getting the match I haven’t thought about what’s ahead,” Flitner said, noting that the five board members don’t have the expertise for that role.

The fair board scheduled a meeting with the building committee on Wednesday night to discuss the facility.