Commissioners planning Expo expansion

By Kelsey Kimbler -

EATON — Preble County Commissioners continue to plan for an expansion on the Expo Center at the Preble County Fairgrounds, an addition which will be a destination location for weddings, conferences and other events.

The county has received a $400,000 grant this year from the state for the fairgrounds, money which officials have decided to use on the Expo Center. The plans for the building include bathrooms/showers, a kitchen area, and a large meeting room which could eventually be used for weddings and other formal events.

During the commissioners’ meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 13, commissioners met with architect Mike Carroll and fairgrounds manager Jim Shute. There the five reviewed plans for the building, and the commissioners asked Caroll to make minor adjustments.

Carroll returned with those changes to a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

“It looks kind of similar, but I think this plan solves the issues we talked about last week and gets us to a point where I think you can understand what is going on,” he said, after presenting the new plans to the commissioners. “The things we talked about last time: the size of the kitchen, the ability to have storage, and the separation of restrooms to have two different sets.

“It makes sense to have them separate for two different events, but if you have one big event you can still use both sets. If you have 400 people they can still use either set,” Carroll said.

They reviewed all the changes, including the bathroom set up, location of doors, storage, and how to restrict access to the kitchens.

Commissioner Chris Day commented, “This is a great plan that will change two times before we get to the end.”

“Only two?” Commissioner Denise Robertson joked.

Carroll then presented the commissioners with two options (A and B) for “budgetary purposes.”

“On Option A the building is 65×150. It has room for tables and chairs for 450 people. That is what I showed you now. I’m going to tell you, that is the max,” Carroll said.

Commissioner Rodney Creech replied, “That’s 10 percent of our county, so I feel good with that.”

“Even with a stage area you could seat 350-400 people,” Day pointed out.

“With chairs only you could seat 900 people. That’s 20 percent,” Carroll added.

Option A would cost the county $1,400,000, which leaves $1,000,000 for the county to pay out after the grant money is used.

“That is for the building shell, plumbing and electrical rough-in, and concrete throughout,” Day clarified.

Carroll also prepared Option B for the commissioners to review.

“I really thought what I’d ought to do with Option B was give you a smaller version of this building,” he said. “I understood what you said last time and we’re looking to do as much as we can, but if you were to cut this building down to 100 feet in length, basically cutting 25 feet off on each side of the building, it takes your table and chair seating to under 300 people and you’re looking to up the cost $20 more per square foot.

“But it does get the shell construction cost down to $500,000.”

“So if we go with the larger version we’re looking at $1,400,000 with, to get everything on the ground with the shell, $719,500,” Day said. “Our primary focus would be getting the shell and figuring out how to move next.”

He then asked the commissioners if they would be interested in Option A or B.

“I think Option B is not an option,” Creech said. “I love to save money, but we have a goal we’re shooting for and Option A accomplishes that.”

The commissioners were in agreement.

Of the $400,000 grant the county received, there is $392,000 left to use toward the project.

“I think we need to pare it down, but we also need to talk about how we’re going to make up the difference,” Creech said. “I think it is a no-brainer what we’re doing here, but we do need to pay for it. This thing will be utilized a lot.”

Shute responded, “I would be surprised if we didn’t rent it out at least every weekend.”

“I think we’re looking at all together $750,000 in this first phase, without any contingencies,” Day pointed out. “Now, there shouldn’t be a lot of contingencies in this phase, unless there was something really unforeseen like with the soil. So, basically, we have $392,000 and we need $358,000. With the funds we have currently, we’re looking at a little less than a $360,000 shortfall.”

Creech added, “We only have two options: we can go out and get it or we can use it and hope to make it back. I think this is a huge investment from an economic development standpoint. This is a risk that is worth taking.”

“Have we given any thought of selling the building and naming it after the donor?” Shute asked.

“I think that is an option we need to explore,” Day responded. “Unfortunately, we have a concept and before we can sell it we need a little more detail. We have to do the investment to get to that point. I don’t have a problem with getting the drawings to get this done and while we’re doing this we can start selling it or at least getting it in front of the people.

“At this point we need to get the plans and keep pushing forward. As we get a little further along they can get us a rendering of what we’re looking at. Then you can go and talk to people.”

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH