Center risks yearlong delay

Fair officials worry over expansion timing

September 22, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

In July 2000, work could be complete on the Carroll County Agriculture Center.

Or it could still be a month from starting.

Building committee chairman Franklin Feeser is not ready to give up the goal of completing the center's expansion in time for the opening of the 2000 Carroll County 4-H/FFA Fair.

But nothing is yet cast in concrete, and Feeser said construction could be delayed until August if it doesn't start soon enough to be done by July.

"I hope everyone is wise enough not to start something we can't finish by next year," he said.

Crews would have to demolish existing animal sheds before the work can begin, so if the expansion is not completed by late July, the fair would have no home.

Members of the fair's board attended a meeting last week of the Ag Center's directors. Because the fair, the center's biggest event, uses up every inch of the building and requires tents to house some steers and other livestock, fair board members wanted to know when the expansion could start, and to urge that no work be started that couldn't be completed by the 2000 fair, Feeser said.

The biggest problem has been money: The center has raised $1.7 million for the project, whose estimates have ranged from $2.3 million to $3.4 million. The higher figure was for a center with some offices, a commercial kitchen and banquet facilities.

Board members have asked the architects to scale back the project to keep mainly the 4-H exhibit areas, said Feeser, who is awaiting a floor plan. He said that once he has the plan, he might be able to enlist a concrete contractor to pour the floor as an in-kind donation. Feeser said other elements of the project could be solicited as donations.

As board members wrestle with how to pay for an expanded Ag Center, they may look again to the county commissioners for help that goes beyond the standing offer of a low-interest loan.

Some members of the private, nonprofit Ag Center board will meet with the commissioners next week to provide an update on the project, said Feeser, vice president of the center's board.

"The building is something we want, and something the county wants to have, so maybe [the commissioners] could be a little more understanding in the financing," he said.

The meeting, he said, is to update the commissioners. "We feel it's important to this project for them to know where we're at," Feeser said.

He said that the board might not make a direct request for a specific amount of money, but it would likely not turn down an offer.

Commissioner President Julia Walsh Gouge said she and Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier have not discussed providing a grant for the expansion.

"Once they come in and talk to us, we would know a little more," Gouge said.

The Ag Center is home to agricultural and community events such as the county 4-H fair, the Maryland 4-H Horse Jamboree, local and state 4-H education programs and private ventures such as traveling circuses.

Board members want to build an expanded center that could provide better facilities for the 4-H youngsters and their animals and also be rented out to other clients for shows and events.

Pub Date: 9/22/99

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