4-H Fair in 2000 last for buildings

Officials announce plan for demolition, construction of arena

November 17, 1999|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

The old volunteer-built barns and sheds of the Carroll County Agriculture Center will shelter the last 4-H Fair of the 20th century in July, then promptly be torn down to make way for an expanded arena for the 2001 fair, officials said yesterday.

Center board members had hoped to start construction this year and have a new building ready for the 2000 fair.

But changes in design to accommodate concerns of neighbors in the adjacent residential community delayed the project, said Lawrence Meeks, president of the center's board of directors.

A design is ready, but Meeks said the board wants to be safe and wait until after the next fair to have a larger window of time to work.

While the construction could take as few as three or four months, he said, that doesn't take into account weather delays and the reliance on some donated services.

"The board has always wanted to start immediately after a fair, so they could complete it before the next fair," said Meeks.

While the Carroll County 4-H Fair is not the Westminster center's only event, it is the largest.

"One of the primary reasons is we want to give the users of the Ag Center the maximum amount of time to plan their use of the center around this building project," Meeks said. "Some events are planned a year ahead."

Also, the board is counting on some of the estimated $2.8 million construction costs to be covered by in-kind donations of services, such as preparing the site for construction, landscaping, security systems and plumbing.

Building Committee Chairman Franklin Feeser said the trades people and contractors will need time to work donated services into their professional schedules.

The project has been scaled back to a 150-by-350-foot arena, with minimal space for a concession stand, an animal washing area and a vestibule with a few offices.

It will have an advanced ventilation system, Feeser said, that should cool the building with fans instead of air conditioning. In warm months, the building would have 12-foot-wide garage doors open, and exhaust fans that would draw warm air out of the ceiling. In the winter, the fans would circulate warm air from the heating system.

Meeks said ventilation will be an important factor in the new building because it is essential for the health and safety of the animals. A sick cow in a badly ventilated barn will infect other cows, he said.

The building is being designed by Probst-Mason of Baltimore, which has designed buildings for Carroll Community College and Western Maryland College.

The founder, Joe Mason, is a former 4-H member and understands the needs of such a center, Feeser said.

He said an agricultural engineer from the University of Maryland, College Park has been an adviser.

Original plans for a new kitchen and banquet facility were abandoned, Feeser said. They could have brought the project cost to about $3.3 million.

The center will continue to use Burns Hall as its kitchen and banquet area, and the adjacent building, where craft and food exhibits have traditionally been displayed.

Feeser said $3.3 million was beyond what the board felt it could raise for now, and the priority was to create enough space to house all the 4-H animals. As planned, the arena would do that, he said.

For the annual weeklong fair, animals live in wooden sheds and open barns built mostly in the 1950s.

As the fair grew, and more young people joined 4-H, organizers put up tents to house the growing number of animal entries.

To make way for the new building, everything from the dairy show ring to the livestock show ring will be torn down.

The board is continuing to raise money for the project, which has received $700,000 from two state grants, matched by $1.1 million in cash and pledges. Meeks said he has spoken with Republican state Sen. Larry E. Haines, chairman of the Carroll County legislative delegation, about having local lawmakers sponsor a bill to get additional grants. He said the board has not decided how much to request this year.

In January, the delegation sponsored a bill asking the General Assembly for $900,000 toward the project, to cover the cost of changes to appease neighbors. The agricultural center board got $300,000, with an indication it could return in future years to ask for more.

Whatever is not available in grants could be filled in through a loan from county government. The commissioners have approved selling bonds for up to $2.5 million to build the center.

Meeks said the board wants to seek as much as possible in grants before it borrows money.

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