Citizens sought to solve fairgrounds flap |

Citizens sought to solve fairgrounds flap

Kathy Heicher

EAGLE COUNTY – After months of some very public fighting, the Eagle County commissioners have hit a point of agreement on the controversial “livestock pavilion” for the Eagle County Fairgrounds.Don’t expect groundbreaking to take place immediately. However, the talk at the commissioner’s March 22 meeting was that the project will get started this year.Acting on a motion by Commissioner Peter Runyon the board voted 2-1 to set up a citizens committee to figure out what activities and events would take place in the pavilion. Menconi, who has been consistent in his doubts about the project, said afterwards he voted against Ruynon’s motion because he felt the scope of the committee was too narrow, and it was moving in the direction of a riding arena rather than a facility that could accomodate a wider range of events.But once the citizens committee finishes its assessment, Runyon said, the county should hire an architects and put the project out for bid. “If you design it right, you can accommodate more than just a narrow segment of the community,” said Runyon. The proposed 24,000-square-foot, $1.9-million pavilion has been a source of controversy since it suddenly became a spending priority for Commissioners Tom Stone and former commissioner Michael Gallagher in the weeks before the latter left office. At various times, the building has been described as a multi-use events center or as a simple livestock pavilion.Menconi has raised questions about actual use, cost and operating expenses. Once Gallagher retired from office, his replacement, Runyon, became something of a swing vote. Last week, Stone and members of the Eagle County Fair Board, in an unscheduled visit at a commissioners’ meeting, pressured Runyon for an immediate decision on the project. This week’s meeting was a continuation of that discussion. Runyon proposed the citizens committee include representatives from the Eagle Valley Chamber of Commerce, the towns of Eagle and Gypsum, the Western Eagle County Metro Recreation District, the Eagle County Fair Board and the Eagle County School District.Runyon said he had visited similar facilities in other counties, and sees a need for such a structure in Eagle County. He suggested the building be designed with future expansion in mind. At the same time, Runyon voiced doubts about the a plan drawn up by Roger Kinney, the consultant working with the county on the pavilion. Runyon aid the new plan did not reflect Eagle County’s needs, and was “in the face” of a previous plan that evolved out of a lengthy, public review process.Stone defended Kinney’s work, noting the county has already paid him some money. Stone also pushed for a commitment to start construction this year.But Menconi continued to voice concerns about the project.”We need to start with figuring out the use, then proceed with the function and design. Usage of the building has always been a moving target,” said Menconi, adding that he is more interested in exploring the need for a new exhibit hall.Stone thanked Runyon for his personal effort in studying the pavilion issue.”I apologize if my passion for this project, which resulted in some frustration, resulted in any kind of lack of decorum,” said Stone.Vail, Colorado

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