The idea of moving the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds from their landlocked location in Janesville is not dead, but it’s in a coma if some key county officials’ assessments are correct.
A news release sent Thursday on Rock County letterhead says the county is moving forward with a master plan to repair and improve the existing fairgrounds.
The release includes a quote from board Chairman Russ Podzilni that includes these words: “I have no intention of accepting a motion or resolution to move the Rock County Fairgrounds, unless something totally unexpected is presented to the county.”
Also in the news release was Randy Thompson, president of the 4H Fair Association board, saying: “From the county fair board perspective, we are supportive of the county’s commitment to make improvements to the grounds. All the improvements will have a positive impact on our ability to maintain and grow the county fair.”
The idea of moving the fairgrounds was raised in October after a facilities-improvement study was completed, and some people continue to question whether that’s an option, so officials felt the need to address it, said county board member Rich Bostwick.
Bostwick heads the board’s Agriculture and Extension Education Committee, which oversees the fairgrounds.
Bostwick said officials realized if they don’t put the issue to bed, they will continue to have to deal with speculation.
Officials have discussed the issue, and the decision was to go ahead with improving the existing fairgrounds, starting with spending $200,000 to repair the asphalt in time for next July’s fair, Bostwick said.
“We’re starting to do things at the most basic level, and as the years go by, we’ll up the efforts,” he said.
Proposals include removing the existing grandstand and installing bleachers in a different location, replacing the Craig Center and building a food pavilion.
Options on how those changes are made mean the costs could range from $5 million to $15 million, according to the news release.
Officials have not yet established a list of which projects will come next, said Bostwick and county facilities director Brent Sutherland.
The asphalt must be fixed because of trip hazards, Sutherland said.
Much of the existing asphalt will be patched. Some could be ground down and resurfaced, and 37,000 square feet of asphalt will be added for parking, Sutherland said.
Bostwick called the asphalt work “a good first step because even if you were never going to move the fairgrounds, it was a safety issue out there, and you don’t want lawsuits.”
Bostwick said that while moving the fairgrounds isn’t on the agenda now, if someone comes forward with the money, the board is ready to listen.
County board member Yuri Rashkin, who raised the question of moving the fairgrounds in October, said he’s still interested in the idea, but he understands that unless a wealthy donor or donors come forward, the prudent thing is to make repairs to the existing site.
Rashkin said he would be glad to ask for a committee to study the issue if others were willing to serve on the committee with him, but he doesn’t see that kind of support right now among board members.
“Also, they might know themselves that agreeing on a new location will be nearly impossible, as everyone seems to have their own idea of what’s best,” Rashkin said.
“In a way, it (the news release) is a call to action: Will somebody from the community who has the means to make this happen please speak up?” Rashkin said.