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Firm chosen to study move

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HANCOCK COUNTY — Though largely symbolic for now, a move for a new county fairgrounds complex continues to advance with the selection of a design firm and recent action by the county commissioners supporting the effort.

Wednesday night, a steering committee of stakeholders from county and city governments; the Hancock County 4-H Agricultural Association; and business and economic development interests selected Triad Associates Inc. of Indianapolis as the engineering and design firm to study the idea of a new fairgrounds, which would be built on county-owned property east of Greenfield.

Triad will ultimately be responsible for canvassing the various interests to be served by a new facility and devising a design to accommodate them.

However, Triad’s role, including how much the firm’s work will cost and where that funding will come from,  will not be defined until many other questions are answered and issues are worked out, said Skip Kuker, executive director of the Hancock Economic Development Council, who also sits as a steering committee member.

“We still have a long way to go even finalizing and funding a design,” Kuker said.

“Can we do this? Do we want to do this? How do we want to do this? These are some of the questions that need to be (answered) in months and months of work,” Kuker said. “Until you’ve vetted all the questions, you’re not sure whether you’re doing yourself a good job or the community a good job.”

Given the variety of interests that will be involved in the discussion, it will be some time before a clear picture emerges of what would be needed at a new facility to define the scope of Triad’s engagement.

“There are a lot of interests involved,” said Greenfield Utilities Director Mike Fruth, who drafted the request for proposals for the engineering firms. “There’s a pretty diverse group just within the agricultural community, but it also includes those concerned with economic development.”

Getting input from the various groups was the impetus behind the introduction of two ordinances last week on the subject of accepting public donations for the project and establishing a management board.

“A lot of people have a stake in the decisions that are made,” said county Commissioner Tom Stevens, who also sits on the steering committee. “A lot of things are trying to come together here all at once.”

The move to build a new fairgounds – first discussed a decade ago – gained new momentum late last year after plans were presented for a new covered multipurpose show arena at the current fairgrounds.

Currently, proponents of the move are eyeing 200-acres of county-owned farmland north of U.S. 40 between CRs 400E and 500E; however, a final location has yet to be settled.

Last week, Hancock County commissioners introduced two draft ordinances for consideration. They promote discussion and input on the issues of accepting public donations for a new fairgrounds facility and establishing a management board.

Stevens said the two ordinances were drafted so the commissioners can further discussion surrounding the relocation effort and receive input from the various stakeholders.

“The purpose is to allow input,” Stevens said. “We’re very interested in input from the committee.”

Kuker said those involved in the renewed discussion for a new fairgrounds – some of whom have competing interests – have approached a complex situation in a professional manner and with open minds.

“I’m very impressed with these people,” Kuker said.

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