For one thing, the Park County Buildings and Grounds Department is now handling the management and upkeep of the grounds, including custodial duties.
Those jobs had previously been largely handled by a fair manager and a grounds staffer, who each left the fair’s employ this summer.
“We have undergone a lot of changes this year,” said Fair Board Secretary Debbie Kelly in a press release. “We have a chance to move in a different direction and want to work to make our great fair even better.”
“With a massive electrical upgrade over the next few years and the prospect of a new (multi-use) building, the grounds are changing,” added Fair Board Vice President Robby Newkirk. “We need to take a new approach and do things a bit different than we have in the past.”
Instead of hiring a new manager, the fair board promoted office manager Jennifer Lohrenz to a new position of fair director. She’ll be in charge of administering the fair and working with buildings and grounds crews to make sure the fairgrounds’ needs are met.
Lohrenz, a Park County native, has been the fair’s office manager since July 2010 and has experience in public administration, the financial industry and management. She played a larger-than-expected role in organizing the 2011 Park County Fair when manager Steve Scott resigned a month prior to its opening. Kelly said Lohrenz has shown the fair board her dedication and is uniquely qualified for the new role.
The fairgrounds are currently in the midst of extensive renovations to the electrical grid and buildings. The county spent roughly $400,000 over the past two years to address electrical problems discovered by a state inspector in 2009 and improve the grid.
The commission also recently finalized a contract with consultant Chris Hill of Douglas to design a new phase of less-critical electrical improvements at the grounds. The contract, worth $80 an hour up to $21,603, will be for upgrades on the east side of the fairgrounds. They include providing more power to the RV pedestals for campers, lighting a riding arena, better parking lot lighting and more efficient stable lights.
Separately, a contractor demolished the aging Large Exhibit Hall this spring after the roof was found to be failing.
The Fair Board and county have been working to develop plans for a new multi-purpose building that could replace the deteriorating cluster of halls next to the former Large Exhibit Hall.
Kelly told commissioners last week that a preliminary sketch of the proposed building could be ready for review by November or December.
Since taking over management of the fairgrounds last month, the buildings and grounds crews have cleared out stockpiles of old equipment and other materials. They’re also working on adding a third horse arena and planning improvements to the grounds’ two camping areas. Other cosmetic and structural improvements are being eyed, the release said.
“Already we can see a major improvement in appearance,” said Fair Board member Linda Brazelton in the press release.
The county’s buildings and grounds department had already been in charge of major maintenance on the property “so the transition to full maintenance just seems natural,” said Fair Board Treasurer Abby Shuler.
The department will now base its Powell operations out of a shop at the fairgrounds. The department had previously sent a crew over to Powell from Cody a couple days a week to clean and/or maintain other county properties here, including the library, Homesteader Museum, annex building and road and bridge shop, said Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Dennis Spargur.
With the changes, Lohrenz said the Park County Fair will have two year-round employees. Many temporary workers, she noted, will still be needed during the fair.