Monday, August 21, 2023

Repairs to Grandstands Ready By Humboldt County Fair Time

Posted By on Mon, Aug 21, 2023 at 10:11 AM

click to enlarge Repair work to the grandstands at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds. - COURTESY OF THE COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT
  • Courtesy of the county of Humboldt
  • Repair work to the grandstands at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds.
This year’s Humboldt County Fair horse racing season took off from the starting gates Aug. 18, one week after emergency repairs were completed to prevent one of the annual event’s major draws from being scratched, which potentially could have put Ferndale’s spot on the racing circuit in jeopardy.

But the repairs — including the installation of metal supports around the structure — crossed the finish line on time Aug. 11, a little more than a month after the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors approved the up to $1 million to shore up damage from the Dec. 20 earthquake, with county and fair officials joining those involved in the project Aug. 14 to mark the milestone.

The Humboldt County Fair, which opened Aug. 17 and runs through Aug. 24, but is closed today, generates an estimated $5 million in economic activity for the region.

While the state completed a preliminary assessment shortly after the magnitude 6.4 rocked the Eel River Valley, hitting Rio Dell particularly hard, Humboldt County personnel also inspected the grandstands at the request of the Humboldt County Fair Association.

“Based on the initial inspection of this facility and others, the county authorized funding to retain a structural engineering firm, KPFF, to perform in-depth analysis of structures, including the grandstands on April 18,” according to the county.

After the Humboldt County Fair Association Board received a June 26 briefing from county Public Works Director Tom Mattson on the draft report, which concluded the grandstands were unsafe for the public to use, the fair association reached out to the county for assistance.

A special board of supervisors meeting was called for three-days later, at which Mattson told supervisors that the inspection determined the roof could fall in the event of another major earthquake and a 66-foot "fall zone" around the structure needs to be cordoned off, leaving two main options: a temporary stabilization at an estimated cost of $1 million or a "controlled failure" of the roof.

In the end, the supervisors voted 4-0, with Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson absent, after what board Chair Steve Madrone described as a "robust" discussion that included questions about whether the board should allocate the funds during a difficult budget year and the responsibilities of the fair association — which manages the fairgrounds under a lease with the county.

The funds — essentially a loan — will come from the county's 2020 finance plan, which County Administrative Office Elishia Hayes recommended at the meeting, saying those monies were immediately available and earmarked for infrastructure projects.

The county and the fair board have entered into an MOU, pledging to work together to come up with a reimbursement plan for the funds, which are only providing a temporary fix to the damage caused during the December earthquake, with the county stating in background materials for the Aug. 14 event that “it is unclear whether the state and/or federal governments will provide funding for this disaster-related expense.”
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Kimberly Wear

Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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