County Commission considers funding for Expo Park grandstands, budget adjustments, storage unit project

During Tuesday morning’s Cascade County Commission meeting, commissioners will consider allocating $40,000 for betting windows in alternative structures since the area under the grandstands at Montana Expo Park has been deemed unsafe.

Commissioners will also consider authorizing $30,000 for the county’s portion of the Tourism Business Improvement District’s infrastructure study at the fairgrounds.

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The funds are being transferred to the Expo Park Projects fund from the county’s general fund.

The new betting areas are needed since discovered last fall that the area beneath the grandstand’s steel structure was not safe for pedestrians.

Public Works Director Brian Clifton scheduled an evaluation of the more than 85-year-old structure and reported to commissioners that “a structural engineering inspection conducted late last summer, after the Lincoln, Montana earthquake and another recent inspection, after the freeze-thaw winter season, confirmed the grandstand structure is perfectly safe for spectator seating. However, the concrete spalling, or release of concrete fascia from the underside of the grandstand seating, is an obvious safety problem for pedestrians walking beneath the structure.”

The cost of installing overhead wire safety netting to catch any falling fragments was estimated at $125,000 to $200,000, according to the county.

“Given the long-term vision to replace the aging grandstand, the Commissioners did not believe this expense was a cost-effective solution,” Commissioner Jane Weber said in a release.

County officials met with partners from the Great Falls Turf Club and the Big Sky Pro Rodeo to find a workable alternative for this summer.

The costs to create alternative betting windows and rent a tent for the Patriot Dinner are considerably less than installation of temporary wire-mesh netting.

Clifton proposed county welders and carpenters fabricate portable betting windows from recycled boxcars. Two 40-foot structures will be retrofit and installed side-by-side to create 21 betting windows and provide secured storage for the specialized wagering equipment, according to the county.

The betting windows will be transportable and installed along the northeast side of the Paddock Club this coming season.

“The lifespan of our grandstand is coming to an end and the commission will consider whether the county’s budget can support the cost of demolition and replacement of the grandstand before the summer 2019 horse racing and rodeo,” Weber said in a release. “We are looking into those costs now, as we prepare to begin our budgeting cycle.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners will also consider:

  • Establishing the Executive Plaza Capital Building Fund to cover remodeling and upgrades to the building owned primarily by the county. The county is finalizing an architectural services contract for the project. State law authorizes governing bodies to establish a capital improvement fund for the replacement, improvement and acquisition of property, facilities or equipment that cost more than $5,000 and has a life expectancy of five years or more. Commissioners will consider a budget amendment to transfer $84,000 to the newly created fund from the general fund.
  • A budget amendment transferring $50,295 from the general fund to restore the balance of election fees that were used for other projects.

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  • A collective bargaining agreement between Cascade County and the Cascade County Deputy Attorneys Association representing the Cascade County Deputy Attorneys. The agreement is effective July 1, 2017-June 30, 2020.
  • An agreement to support the Memorandum of Understanding between the Community Health Care Center and the Great Falls Public Schools and sets forth terms and conditions under which Protected Health Information that is created or received by the Great Falls Public Schools on behalf of the Community Health Care Center may be used or disclosed.
  • An application for a 32-unit storage facility that will be accessed from Stuckey Road.

The full packet of documents is here.