By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
EL RENO – Canadian County Commissioners must overcome roadblocks – including where to get water – before construction starts on a $15.8 million first phase of the county fairgrounds’ project.
Commissioners had hoped for an early 2020 ground-breaking on the new “expo center” complex, which will be built on a 50-acre site at the northwest corner of Jensen and Alfadale roads just south of Interstate 40 near El Reno.
One major hurdle to overcome before dirt can turn is determining how to connect to an adequate water source. The property is in an unincorporated area served by Banner’s rural water district.
An agreement was reached several months ago among the county, water district and City of El Reno to build a 12-inch waterline to provide water for the new fairgrounds’ site.
El Reno city leaders recently asked to annex the property now – even before construction starts – to install the waterline.
County Commission Chairman Marc Hader came up with a compromise that would allow the City of El Reno to help the Banner district supply water that provides the volume and pressure needed for the fairgrounds’ property.
Then, once the fairgrounds/expo center is constructed, the property would be annexed by El Reno.
Canadian County wants to be “good partners” with the City of El Reno and Banner water authority, Hader emphasized.
“El Reno will sell their water, essentially, to the Banner water district and then they’ll add up up-charge to us to satisfy the agreement between those two parties,” the District 1 commissioner said. “We’ll be paying the Banner water district regardless. That’s what we agreed to.”
District 3 Commissioner Jack Stewart has talked with an engineering firm to analyze another option – for Canadian County to install about 2-1/2 miles of 12-inch waterline from the south to connect with Banner’s water system. That would cost about $250,000 and require property owners to give private easements.
“Jack would like to move forward, but we don’t want to spend money unnecessarily if we can go forward with El Reno and what we’ve committed to,” Commissioner Hader said.
The goal of some Canadian County officials is to host the August 2021 county fair at the new fairgrounds’ site.
“We’re trying to get this fairgrounds’ project moving,” Commissioner Stewart said at Tuesday’s Yukon Legislative Breakfast. “What is putting pressure on this is our own self-inflicted deadline of wanting to have the fairgrounds open for the 2021 fair.
“We’ve got to start moving now. Everything’s ready to move, other than some permits that are just beyond my belief.”
Canadian County still must get a permit from the state fire marshal’s office.
“What I didn’t realize until last night is that you cannot even start turning dirt until you get the fire marshal’s approval,” Stewart said.
Chairman Hader certainly wants earthwork to start as soon as possible before the foundation is poured for the new fairgrounds’ building.
But he’s not making any more estimates about when there will be a ground-breaking or grand opening.
“I won’t commit to any dates myself,” Hader said. “I’m not that concerned about what annual livestock show or free fair we open for.
“I’d rather make sure we build a really quality facility that will serve folks for decades to come.”
Opening the new fairgrounds complex for the August 2021 county fair is “a goal we’d still would like to hit, but to me, it’s not a ‘hill to die on’ in our decision-making,” he added.
In preparation for the start of construction, commissioners recently opened the first set of bid packages – for dirt-work and to buy a prefabricated metal building.
“We received some really, really good bids,” Stewart said. “The room was full of contractors – which is always a good sign if you’re the one putting the bids out.
“If you get over four or five bids on anything, you’re going to get some pretty competitive prices. We had eight or nine.”
Lingo Construction is the construction manager for the Canadian County fairgrounds/expo center project.