Clark County fairgrounds safety plan costs rise to $180K

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Springfield News-Sun reporter Tiffany Latta digs into government spending and public safety issues, including efforts to widen Interstate 70 and to build a first-of-its-kind roundabout in Clark County.

The cost to upgrade fairground campsites to reduce the risk of rapidly spreading fire has grown to more than $180,000.

Clark County commissioners provided $121,000 to fair officials to address safety concerns at the Clark County Fairgrounds campsites and recently agreed to give them an additional $60,000 due to changes in the electrical code in January that required the fair board to alter campsite design plans.

Allan Hess, executive director of the Clark County Fair, said once the design was completed, fair officials learned that the cost for labor and materials had increased.

“When the inspectors went through and we had to make the adjustment to the plans, the cost of materials went up quite a bit and (so) did the labor,” said Allan Hess, executive director of the Clark County Fair.

Fair officials have added 72 new campsites and updated or refurbished about 90 others. A total of 500 campsites will now be available for fair camping, Hess said.

The project must be completed before the start of the Clark County Fair on July 18, he said.

“Work has continued to go forward because we have made a commitment to have these available by the fair,” Hess said.

The completion of the project was delayed, he said, after officials learned that they had to use metal container boxes instead of plastic ones that fit over RV adapters.

“The metal one cost about three times more than the plastic ones,” Hess said

The estimated cost of materials is about $35,000 and the estimated cost for the labor is $25,000, but Hess said he hopes it costs less than that.

Clark County Commissioner John Detrick originally supported giving the fairgrounds $50,000 for the additional expenses, but Commissioner David Hartley wanted to increase that amount to $60,000. Detrick then agreed with the larger amount.

“You’re the No. 1 tourist attraction. You count for 75 percent of the sales tax that comes in for tourism,” Detrick said.

The changes were needed after Springfield Twp. Fire Department Chief John Roeder “highly recommended” the fairgrounds allow at least 18 feet between the campers and the barns.

Campers must also be parked no less than two feet apart to allow firefighters space to move through the campsites in case of an emergency.

Some campers had parked so close together they touched, Clark County Fair Board President Jay Flax has said.

“If we have a fire, we’re going to have a real serious situation,” Flax has said.

Campers were separated by six to eight inches, parked in an disorderly fashion and blocked fire lanes.

“If there was an emergency, there was no way they could get out and there was no way we could get in there to rescue anyone,” Roeder said.

The packed conditions, along with the grills and freezers at the campsites, were a fire hazard, he said.

“By no means was I trying to ruin a good time, but it’s just the safety aspect was starting to worry us … It was just getting out of control and just worried me to death,” Roeder said.

The needed changes have been made, he said, and the campsites should be much safer this year. Fire officials recently inspected the campsites and plan to monitor the site during the fair.