Stephanie Bennett Brown said she met with personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development arm earlier this month to talk about getting grant money for the new fairgrounds building.
“It was a really great meeting, and they’re excited about your project,” Brown said. Unfortunately, Brown said, the USDA employees also informed her that because the building would be on the grounds of a fair, the agency considers it to be a “recreational facility” rather than a “community facility.”
That classification means the building is effectively ineligible for USDA grants, she said, “which is just a real bummer.” The department is, however, willing to help look for funds and pass along information about upcoming grants, she said.
Commissioners said they didn’t understand why the multi-purpose building — which would be used to host community gatherings and events throughout the year — would not be a community development project. Brown commiserated (“It will be in the truest sense not only a community facility, but a county facility,” she agreed), but said arguing with the USDA officials got nowhere.
“Don’t be completely discouraged,” she added, noting there may be other federal dollars available for the building.
Brown also has prepared a number of smaller grant applications to be sent to various foundations.
Commissioners balked at one application, which asked them to certify that they couldn’t pay for the new building any other way.
While the grant-seeking may be Plan A, “there are other options available to us if we hit a brick wall with this one,” said Commissioner Joe Tilden.
Beyond figuring out how to pay for the new building, the county has yet to decide how large the building will be and what features it will have.
Commission Chairman Tim French said those basic details will be pinned down at a Feb. 7 meeting with grant writer Brown and the Park County Fair Board.
“We’ll make sure that we get this locked down definite in our February meeting,” French said.
Rough figures batted around by a county planning committee have ranged from 21,000 to 30,000 square feet and a cost of between $2 million and $3 million.
The new facility would replace the aging cluster of large, small and needlework exhibit halls; the large hall had to be demolished last year after the county discovered the roof was in danger of collapsing.
The other two halls remain safe for use, but are more than 70 years old.