By Jondi Gumz
The Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds pig and sheep barns, in use since 1955, have been declared ‘unstable and unsafe’ by a state agency, and fairground CEO Dave Kegebein recommends they be demolished to make way for temporary facilities for 4-H Participants showing animals at this year’s fair September 14-18.
In the long term, Kegebein proposes to build a new multipurpose building which he says will cost between $8 million and $10 million, and to divide it into three parts depending on fundraising.
“Wonderful supporters will push these projects forward under the right conditions,” he said. “You have to think flexibility.”
The council’s breeding committee, which met on July 6, approved its recommendation, which is forwarded to the nine-member fair board at a special meeting at 6:30 p.m. on July 19. See www.santacruzcountyfair.com/board/agenda-items
Jody Belgard, vice chair of the board, said a special meeting scheduled for July 12 was canceled because the agenda was not posted on the fair’s website 10 days ago. advance, as required.
The Salinas Valley Fair, which made a master plan update in 2017, has a nonprofit foundation with 300 members who raised funds to build two event centers in 2005 totaling nearly 120,000 square feet .
New construction at the Watsonville Fairgrounds would allow for a wider service road than what exists.
Kegebein sees this as an opportunity to reduce the chances of a mass shooting like that at the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival, where the shooter used bolt cutters to cut through a wire fence and evade security checks.
Kegebein also sees a new facility as a source of income, rented out for equestrian events, trade shows and other activities while being available for emergency housing for people and livestock as needed during the disaster. CZU fire. (Santa Cruz County has a contract with the fairgrounds for emergency housing.)
The Chowchilla-Madera County Fair built a new event center after a 2008 fire destroyed the largest building on the land rented for weddings, reunions and fundraisers.
Rental demand is high at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds.
“We are fully booked for the rest of the year,” Kegebein said.
Bingo brings a crowd, for one.
In the spring, the fairgrounds hosted Burning Man Santa Cruz, drawing approximately 3,000 attendees for laser light shows, art, music, and camping.
No record of this event could be seen last week when the 14th District Livestock Committee heard Kegebein’s presentation.
As an alternative to temporary quarters for county fair attendees, Kegebein said he had approved plans for an engineering foundation that could be installed before the county fair in September 2023.
Among members of the Breeding Committee, there was consensus to go with ‘option one’, temporary breeding facilities this year, meaning youngsters showing pigs must bring their own water and continue the multipurpose building for the future.
“Safety is the top priority,” Kyle Middleton said, noting that a microphone system would be needed to communicate with 4-H youth. “I think we can find something.”
Kyle Plaskett said “The barn is at full power” and he saw “a lot of extension cords running across the grass”.
Loretta Estrada asked about shade for animals, and Stephanie Fontana observed, “On the lawn, pigs can uproot themselves. I’m really worried about this.
Danny Naranjo said: “Let’s start with new barns. You have to move with the times. »
Fair volunteers Yvonne Sowersby and Jodi Corkner supported the first option.
Corkner said it was “really exciting to move into a new multi-purpose building”.
The task sounds “daunting”, Sowersby said, “but take it one step at a time”.
Not everyone supported Kegebein.
Philip Carranco, whose daughter raised 300 chickens at Aromas for the fair, said the scale for weighing animals sold at the market must be calibrated on a stable surface provided by the barns.
Aptos resident Becky Steinbruner has sent three emails to Kegebein regarding her security concerns since October. She argued that the barns were declared unsafe because Kegebein demolished the permanent wooden cattle pens, which she said damaged the integrity of the buried concrete pole piles.
Kegebein later said the problem was dry rot.
Steinbruner said the work was funded by the Fairgrounds Foundation, a nonprofit run by Jeannie Kegebein, a volunteer married to John Kegebein, Dave Kegebein’s father.
Steinbruner said last year Dave Kegebein had volunteers remove and replace all the poles and add large beams to the roof beams, without approval from the fair’s board or the California Construction Authority, the joint powers authority organized in 1988 to provide finance, design, and construction services for health and safety and other fairground projects throughout California.
Steinbruner thinks this agency, which assesses potential risks and problems before the project begins, should be involved.
She asked the fair board to have a public discussion about proposed deals between the fair and the county board of supervisors on a 38.5-acre property at 188 Whiting Road, next to the fairgrounds where the county intends to create equitable access to sports fields, hiking and healthy recreation. The price is $2.31 million, with a 12-month purchase option ending November 12, 2022.
Steinbruner visited a few CZU fire victims who lived in 12 to 15 trailers at the fairgrounds, per the county’s agreement, in November 2020, learning that they were paying $900 a month for a site of camping car. Some got rental assistance from FEMA while others were unsure how they would make the payment.
During a severe storm in January 2021, where people were told to evacuate due to an expected ‘debris flow’, the fair was not ready to accept evacuated animals, so some were sent at Quail Hollow County Park and others at Animal Services.
If stables do not exist, Steinbruner wonders: how could fairgrounds provide emergency accommodation in the future?
Kegebein said the fairgrounds are “fully prepared” with 300 portable small animal enclosures that can be set up anywhere.
Also available are the stable — with 300 stalls — the cow barn and the poultry barn.
In May, Randy Crabtree Jr., executive director of the California Construction Authority, emailed Steinbruner to say, “CCA is actively working with the Fair, the design team, the state, and our inspectors to s ensure work is completed correctly to operate barns safely. for its many uses.
He added, “Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds and the State of California are ultimately responsible for the construction schedule and facility planning. The CCA remains ready to assist at the request of any of these organizations. »
No need to answer
During his presentation, Kegebein mentioned the refusal, adding, “No engineer on this Earth will say it’s okay to use these barns.”
Jessica Ayala of Aromas, who attended Fair Meetings for two years, claimed that “$100,000 was poured into the barns for repairs – it’s a misuse of public funds.”
Asked about these allegations, Kegebein said, “There is no need for me to respond to that.”
When the Livestock Committee met on July 6, the public comment time was reduced from three minutes to two minutes per speaker.
Steinbruner ran out of time, asked for more, and Stephanie Fontana, the committee chair, said no.
However, the volunteers presiding over the departments of the fair and listed in the Kegebein organization chart were allowed to speak without time limit.
On page 60 of the June 28 board package, Kegebein asked the board to approve the demolition of the cattle barns.
Kegebein’s memo on the future of sheep and pig pens gave cost estimates of $150,000 for installing foundations and $250,000 for a new sheep barn foundation, if the work is done by the foundation. from the fairground. If a contractor is hired, the estimate was $400,000+ and $500,000.
Removal of barns by foundation volunteers was estimated at $25,000, and rental of tents at fair time cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per year.
A new metal roof was estimated at $400,000 for each phase and a concrete floor at $240,000 to $720,000, depending on size.
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