Fairgrounds seek grants for improvements

A number of infrastructure and renovation projects could be in store for Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds in Elma provided funding can be secured for the work.

The county is pursuing Department of Agriculture grants to bolster paving and drainage repairs and to look at the feasibility of a new livestock barn and improved restroom/shower/hospitality facilities at the fairgrounds.

“Hopefully, we will be successful in this grant process,” said fairgrounds manager Mike Bruner. “Moving forward with these projects is very dependent on successfully acquiring funding assistance through grant programs, etc.”

One of the projects, paving and drainage, is construction-ready. Bruner told Grays Harbor County Commissioners on Tuesday that the construction cost has come in considerably higher than was originally estimated, which will increase the county’s required match should they be successful in their bid for a Department of Agriculture Capital Improvement Grant.

“The drainage and paving project is located in two areas of the fairgrounds,” said Bruner. The first area “is located between the southeast end of the Pavilion building, Equine Barns and Raceway Grandstands. The existing pavement is very broken up and continues to get worse as rain water seeps into cracks, and then freezes, during the winter.”

That particular area also needs drainage improvements to help move water out of the high traffic area.

“During the rainy season, it collects in the area creating large puddles of standing water and during times of heavy rains will push water into the east end of the Pavilion building,” said Bruner.

The second paving area is located around the Jodesha Kids Zone Stage, Quick Stop Food Booth, Information Booth and Master Gardeners’ areas, said Bruner.

The original construction estimate for the project was $170,000; another estimate received just days ago has upped that total to $208,000. The grant would require a 50% county match, which means the county would have to provide $104,000 toward the project in order to use the grant.

Two other projects are in the planning stages: a new livestock barn and new restroom/shower/hospitality services facilities. Bruner is submitting separate $20,000 grant proposals, which will be used for a location feasibility study, planning, design, engineer’s drawings and engineers cost estimate; both would again require a 50% — $10,000 — match from the county,

The barn would be located where the current sheep barn, Swine Alley and Goat Alley are found during the fair.

“Every other year we have a person from the State Fair Commission come in and evaluate and give us suggestions, and they mentioned we need to do something to address the growing number of animals in a few different departments and the need for a new building to address that,” said Bruner. “It’s a big priority for us.”

The bathrooms project would include addressing the fair’s comfort corner, a small, old building used for hospitality services.

“The bathrooms are something we’ve wanted to improve and replace for a while,” Bruner told the commissioners. The comfort center is a place where seniors can go to rest, get water, or get assistance when needed.

Commissioner Kevin Pine asked how long it’s been since restrooms were updated.

Bruner said, “It’s just been a repair as you go type of thing since, well, before my time,” probably at least 10-15 years. “We’ve tried to do some renovation projects to them but the distance between toilets doesn’t meet current code, and the stall width and things like that really kind of handcuffed us in terms of what we could do for repairs. If we’re going to address the issue it’s going to come in the form of a new restrooms building.”

Grant matching funds would come from the county’s “stadium fund,” the 2% lodging tax. Bruner told the commissioners he wasn’t sure what the exact current balance was in the account, but with another solid tourism year “it’s very healthy right now. The feeling is with a strong tourism season it’s a good time to address some of these issues.”