December 16, 2018

Commissioners approve drafting of letter of intent to purchase new fairgrounds property

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STANDISH — Arenac County Commissioners authorized the drafting of a letter of intent to purchase new property for the fairgrounds along US-23 south of Standish at their last meeting Nov. 20.

The letter of intent, which has yet to be drafted or signed at this point, would be for a property on the east side of US-23 behind the Dollar General just south of the city of Standish, Commissioner Adam Kroczaleski said after the approval of the letter.

“The letter of intent is kind of a protection saying that the county is interested in purchasing this property but only if these parameters are met,” Kroczaleski said. “There will be a clause, an out, for us if it is determined that the project is not feasible, and what ‘not feasible’ means will be spelled out (in the letter).”

Kroczaleski said the county had been considering four parcels of land for potential fairgrounds locations, but the US-23 property was deemed the most potentially feasible after all properties were evaluated by Fleis & VandenBrink Engineering, which was hired by the county.

Some of the parcels that were previously reported as being potential new fairground properties were an 80-acre parcel on Pine River Road that is currently owned by the Standish-Sterling Central School District, and Youngman Park located on State Road, which connects to the casino.

Once the letter is drafted and signed, the firm will conduct a feasibility study for the US-23 property.

“The feasibility study will continue to look at the layout of different facilities, the hall, bathrooms, water, electricity, grandstands, animal barns, and provide preliminary engineering and preliminary cost estimates,” Kroczaleski said. “You also have to do a traffic study. What will the effect of the traffic be on US-23 during the week of the fair? The hope is to have the facilities be used all summer long for different events.”

Utilizing input from those directly involved with the fairgrounds such as fairground board members and the 4-H Club, commissioners should have a preliminary layout for the potential fairgrounds property completed sometime in early or mid December, Kroczaleski said.

Once a preliminary design is prepared, the county would begin to seek input from members of the community, he said, adding that the best way to gather input is still being discussed, whether that be an online survey or a town hall style meeting.

Kroczaleski said the goal is to have something solidified by the new year, but ultimately it is contingent on funding.

One of the challenges in the process of finding a new fairgrounds location is coordinating the transition with plans for the current fairgrounds property, he said.

“There are two separate projects that are traveling on two separate tracks but in tandem,” Kroczaleski said. “You have the fairgrounds project but then also you have the industrial park expansion project.”

Part of the process has been working with businesses in the industrial park and the Lake State Railway Company, Kroczaleski said, adding that plans for a rail spur in the industrial park are moving forward in the interest of expanding the industrial park and making it more attractive to outside businesses.

“There have been discussions of work being done on the railroad side of things and talking to different businesses and getting people ready for that,” Kroczaleski said. “But you can't move forward with that unless you know you're going to be able to relocate the fairgrounds.”

Once a new location for the fairgrounds is set in stone, there will be more focus on the sale of the current fairgrounds property, which is why the board of commissioners approved the appraisal of the property, Kroczaleski said.

Ultimately, all revenue from the sale will go toward building and establishing the new fairgrounds, he added.

The overarching goal of the process is to provide improved facilities to those who utilize the fairgrounds, which in turn could increase participation in fairgrounds events and activities in the future.

“It’s not just about taking what we have and moving it somewhere else; it’s about having more opportunity for local residents, visitors and the kids,” Kroczaleski said. “And then, even if that wasn't important enough, you're also trying to create more jobs and more paychecks and a larger tax base. So there is a lot at stake, but I don't see a downside.”

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