Barbs traded over livestock barn
EAGLE COUNTY – A 24,000-square-foot metal pavilion may be the reason not everyone is happy about Eagle County’s spending plans for next year.After hours of emotional – and at times, personal – debate, Commissioners Tom Stone and Michael Gallagher approved the $80 million budget, which includes $1.9 million for a fairground pavilion among the functions of which will be storing livestock raised by 4-H members.Joanne Ford, 17, and a 4-H member, broke into tears as she asked the commissioners to include the pavilion in next year’s budget. Ford, who raises livestock to get money for college, doesn’t live out in the country and has no other place to keep livestock now at the fairgrounds.Earlier this year, the local firefighters burned down the old livestock barn to make way for a gravel pit operation on a portion of the county-owned fairgrounds. “This facility is dear to my heart,” Ford said. “Now that we don’t have (a livestock barn) that’s scary.”But some people, such as Commissioner Arn Menconi, think the pavilion has been fast-tracked into the 2005 budget without enough analysis. Menconi issued a “no” vote on a budget that included the pavilion, saying there were too many unanswered questions to give the project the green light. “My hang-up is, why does it have to be in ’05?” he said. “Why not in ’06?”Event centerOther supporters of the pavilion turned out for Tuesday’s public hearing, zeroing their pleas on Menconi even though only a majority is needed to pass the budget. Most urged the commissioners to put the project in the budget next year so it could be finished in time for the 2005 fair. Some dismissed Menconi’s belief that the project had been hurried through. One, Dudley Irwin, worried aloud whether the next county board could derail plans to build the pavilion next year.Irwin went so far as to ask Menconi and incoming Commissioner Peter Runyon – who will replace Gallagher in January and was watching the hearing with the audience – if they would. Runyon’s response was similar to Menconi’s.
“The question is when, not if,” he said of building the pavilion and then returned to his seat in the audience.The county has about $3.7 million to spend on construction projects in 2005. Plans to pay for a new firefighting vehicle for the Sheriff’s Office and a child care center in Edwards gobbled up a little more than $1.2 million of that money. That left just more than half to divvy up among a list of things, such as expansion of Eagle’s senior center and money to help build a fire station in West Vail, just to name a few. The pavilion would replace the old barn, but also serve as an event center for concerts, barrel racing and car shows, among others. “I can’t believe this facility wouldn’t pay for itself in a year or two,” said Wendy Parker, a 4-H leader. Stone and Gallagher said they supported paying for the project in next year’s budget. But Menconi questioned the pavilion’s timeliness.While supporters have been working with the other two commissioners on the project, Menconi wasn’t included in the discussion until the past month, he said. He also has concerns about the operating costs, and said he wasn’t impressed with the building’s industrial look, either. Menconi supports the concept, he said, but didn’t think it was “prudent” to do it in 2005.Menconi isn’t the only one with concerns about the pavilion. While attending a recent meeting about the issue, Eagle Town Manager Willy Powell said the town has been left out of the discussion. The water and sewer lines running to the fairgrounds aren’t large enough to handle a facility that size, he said. Getting personalIrwin initially asked Stone if next year’s board could overturn Tuesday’s approval. Stone responded that Irwin should ask Menconi if he would “scuttle” the issue. Menconi took offense, saying he would like to have more “respect” from a fellow commissioner.
Menconi asked to set aside $2.1 million of general fund money to help purchase and preserve 72 acres of open space in Edwards. Fund-raisers want $6 million from the county for that and open space funds can’t cover all of that. Stone said it was “inappropriate” to discuss the issue. “I’m not in favor of spending any money out of the county’s general fund for open space,” he said. Rather than spending money on the fairground pavilion next year, Menconi wanted to contribute $500,000 to help build a recreation center in Gypsum. The other two commissioners didn’t support doing that in previous discussions, but Stone seemed to want to negotiate. Rather than $500,000, Stone said he could support spending $250,000 of money returned to the county after its annual audit later in the year. But there were conditions, he said. Users of the center, regardless of where they live in the county, would have to be charged the same rate as Gypsum residents, he said. Stone offered the deal in exchange for Menconi’s support on the pavilion. “I’m attempting to address some of your requests,” Stone said to Menconi. “And I would like, although we won’t get it, to change the appropriation to the livestock pavilion.”Gallagher agreed to the idea, but Menconi did not. Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 607 or at email@example.comVail Colorado