Derek Franz

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September 27, 2012
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County hires concept consultant for fairgrounds expansion design

Eagle County might wait to invest in the expansion of its fairgrounds and the Eagle River Center.

County commissioners met with Public Works Director Tom Johnson last week to discuss the county's capital improvement budget. The fairgrounds expansion is among some other potential projects being put on hold.

"We have a handful of if-when-and-how-much projects, stuff we need to get more information on," Johnson said.

In its current condition, the Eagle River Center at the fairgrounds only generates income to cover one-third of its operating costs. The commissioners and others would like to change that scenario and make the facility a regional amenity that could attract equine events from around the nation. But like so many things in life, before the county can make money at the center it needs to spend money at the center - about $3 million.

Also complicating plans at the fairgrounds is a gravel pit and recreation fields that have to be moved some time in next three to five years. After the current pit next to the fields expires, that property will be reclaimed by the county and the land currently under the ball fields will be mined.

Last week, commissioners gave the go-ahead to hire a consultant for a concept design on the fairgrounds. Populous Consulting has a branch in Denver and its contract with Eagle County is not to exceed $29,000. The process is expected to take two or three months.

"It'll help us get a better idea on exactly how much the project will cost," Johnson said.

He said the consulting firm specializes in "show facilities" and designed one of the venues at the London Olympic Games.

"We're not really budgeting for ERC right now because there are too many unknowns," Johnson said. "We'll know more in a few months, and then maybe (the project) will end up in the 2013 budget."

Eagle County is currently budgeting about $6.6 million for capital improvement projects next year.

Two of the biggest budget items are related to the Justice Center and sheriff's department. For the new Justice Center addition that was finished in 2010, there is a debt service payment of $1.6 million, which is a 20-year commitment. About $143,000 is going toward new patrol cars and related equipment for the sheriff's department.

"A patrol car typically lasts about four years," said Sheriff Joe Hoy.

Another $342,000 is planned for replacing the pavement on the north side of the justice center. Hoy said the lot doesn't receive much and sun has issues with weather and drainage.

Also among top priorities for CIP spending is an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the Eagle County Building. That's expected to cost $100,000. The county is matching a $100,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The grant is anticipated but yet to be officially awarded.

The county currently has a "cold" EOC in the basement, meaning that equipment is stored until it is needed. A "warm" center, on the other hand, is ready at the flip of a switch.

Eagle County Emergency Management Director Barry Smith said a warm EOC has practical local uses. For instance, Smith said a warm EOC would have been used during the June structure fire in Avon and is really helpful at times when multiple emergencies are happening.

For third-tier priorities, the CIP budget has $475,000 going toward completion of the bike path between Gypsum and Dotsero; $83,000 to improve the ability of Red Cliff to provide water to its citizens on a consistent basis year-round; and $40,000 for a portable system to transmit real-time secure video over a cellular path.

Fourth-tier priorities include $800,000 to pave the parking areas near the sports fields and pond at Freedom Park in Edwards; and $22,275 to construct four pedestrian/bicycle underpasses in Willits, which is in southern Eagle County.

Small projects for the county capital plan cost between $10,000 and $25,000. The county's property tax of .61 mills collected specifically for capital expenses is dedicated to small projects. The total budget for small projects is $102,500.

Top small-project priorities currently include an addition to the county's maintenance and service center and two IT projects, for a total of almost $59,500.

A second priority is replacement of four servers at a cost of $20,000. A third priority is another IT project to replace video and recording equipment at a cost of $5,000.

"We have a lot of IT projects in this budget," Johnson said.

The last three items on the small-project list are in Eagle-Vail. They include building a sidewalk on Stone Creek Drive, a trail extension running east to west through the neighborhood, and installing signs and six flashing beacons around the school zone. Those projects total $42,500.

The fairgrounds expansion is one of seven projects listed for future consideration. Other items include bucking shoots for the rodeo arena, a roof replacement for the administration building and moving the recreation fields. Also, funds may or may not be requested for the Castle Peak Senior Center, an assisted living and skilled nursing care facility planned in Eagle, and a federally qualified health center.

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The VailDaily Updated Sep 27, 2012 12:12PM Published Sep 27, 2012 12:09PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.