Meeting on livestock pavilion turns testy
EAGLE – When newly-elected Eagle County Commissioner Peter Runyon was sworn into office last month, Vail Mayor Rod Slifer presented him with a referee’s whistle. The gift was a not-so-subtle joke about Runyon’s likely position when joining fellow commissioners Arn Menconi and Tom Stone, who often have a contentious relationship.Runyon could have used that whistle earlier this week. Continuing discussion about whether the county should build a $2 million livestock pavilion at the Eagle County Fairgrounds generated some fireworks between Menconi and Stone. “I’m not against this pavilion,” Menconi said. “I’m trying to make this a better decision. We’ve budgeted for a $2.2-million garage. I’m not in favor of that.” Menconi, who voted against the pavilion in December, said he envisions a facility that would function like a working ranch, while providing a place for 4-Hers to raise their animals. He said more planning of the building is necessary.Stone also said he wanted to preserve “western heritage.” He said the livestock pavilion would be a step in that direction. He pressed Runyon to vote with him on the issue, and pressed the board to proceed with the design of the facility, arguing that questions could be answered in that process.”The money is already approved and appropriated … we’ve had months of discussion of an expenditure that is already approved,” Stone said. He pointed out the rodeo grandstands were also a point of conflict on a past board of commissioners, but have been well-used since they were built.”The previous board of commissioners agreed, by a 2-1 vote in December, to budget $1.9 million this year for a 24,000-square-foot, metal pavilion at the fairgrounds. The cost has since been bumped up to $2.2 million. At the time, supporters argued the facility would serve as a multi-use events center, as well as an exhibit hall, and much more. Commissioners Stone and Michael Gallagher, who left office in November, wanted the project on the fast-track in order to have it ready for county fair in August.Runyon said he supported moving forward “with diligence.” He asked for more solid information about operating costs. He also voiced concerns about competing with existing facilities. Scott Ruff, supervisor of the western Eagle County rec district’s ice rink in Eagle, said his 17,000-square-foot facility is capable of hosting special events.Also in their testy exchange, Menconi and Stone pointed fingers at one another’s spending priorities. Menconi questioned the $1.2 million spent on a pond at Edwards’ Berry Creek – a project that was initially supposed to cost about $600,000. Stone questioned Menconi’s’ support of a $6 million expenditure for the preserving open space at Edwards’ Eaton Ranch.Ultimately, the commissioners said planning for the pavilion would continue with the help of a consultant. “I am trying to look at what are the right possibilities … we’re all in the same ball park,” said Menconi.The project has been somewhat stalled since Runyon replaced Gallagher. Last week, the county released a planning consultant’s study that found the pavilion would not function well as a multi-events center. The consultant cited the lack of a lobby, storage, support space, kitchen, and loading area among the shortfalls. County Administrator Jack Ingstad urged the commissioners to better define the purpose of the building.