Fairgrounds wall to come tumbling down

Looking ahead to the 4-H Fair, the Whitley County Fairboard met Tuesday for the monthly meeting ready to make decisions.The first work day earlier this month was deemed a success as board president Bill Leeuw said the section of unsafe bleachers came down in just two and a half hours thanks in part to Joe and Lee Bowser from National Wreck Systems who came ready with torches. They will return on the next work day to help put up the new bleachers.“The Boy Scouts came and they were great help,” said Leeuw, who said they even asked to be called when the next work day comes up. June 4 is the next scheduled work day with June 9 in case of rain. To be ready for that day, the board looked at four estimates for tearing down of the bleacher wall and replacement.Two bids for poured concrete came from H. O. Fairchild and Sons, Inc. and C & H Concrete Construction, Inc. at $27,486 and $30,900, respectively. The specifications were practically identical, according to Jon Kissinger, which would put in a 185-foot long 10-inch wall with an 8-inch by 2-foot footer including five knee walls for support. Tile would run the length of the wall and the back would be waterproofed. Both bids included Wigent Excavating for the excavation.Two bids were also received for concrete block walls, one from Wigent for $23,688 and one from Superior Excavating for $28,123.Discussion on the bids determined that the poured concrete would be stronger with the steel rebar support as the blocks could give way as the old wooden wall had. The drainage tile would also help with the spring flooding issues.Aaron McDevitt expressed concerns about funding. He questioned whether it was worth spending $21,000 for 250 more seats for two nights a year and asked if the board even had the money in the account.With the $33,000 bill coming for work done so far, treasurer Kent Reese said, “That would deplete our account.”Leeuw said in a worst-case scenario, if they get no money from the county, the total $58,846.50 would drain the account and tap heavily into the line of credit.“But this had to be done,” Leeuw said of the bleacher replacement, as it had been unsafe.After much discussion, the board voted to accept the Fairchild bid, with two opposed and followed that with a unanimous vote to pursue a capital improvement loan with a $50,000 line of credit, with intent of paying it down as soon as possible after the 4-H Fair with sponsorship money.In other business, the board voted to:• Buy a chainsaw sharpener for Tom Ziesig, groundskeeper.• Pay a recording secretary $25 per meeting to take minutes, as they had paid Kay Walter. One was opposed.• Participate in Turtle Days, Old Settlers Day and the South Whitley Fall Festival selling ice cream.• Purchase a special board for the grandstand to list sponsorships in the $100, $250 and $500 and up categories.A report on the 4-H Fun Night from 4-H Council President Matt Gibson showed the silent auction brought in $7,000, a new record. The financial report from the fish fry is not done as the bills haven’t all come in, but it was estimated attendance was down by about 100 people.“Many left because of the long lines,” Gibson said, which had reached from the 4-H Center over to the ag museum at one point. Part of the problem was due to two of the fryers being down.Gibson said the council plans to work on the sign on the point which will say “Welcome to Whitley County 4-H Fair.” The sign will also allow notice of the events of the day. He said the sign will be up in time for the fair.Bruce Johnson reminded the board there will be a pancake sausage breakfast at the ag museum Saturday morning.