County condemns Cow Palace

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By Bob Reichman

The County Commission last month agreed that the Cow Palace at the Sumter County Fairgrounds in Webster is no longer functional and will be destroyed.
The board decided not to proceed with plans to spend $839,038 to refurbish the aging building and also agreed to immediately condemn the facility so that it can no longer be used.
Their decision was made following considerable discussion of the topic on a motion by County Commission Doug Gilpin who said the board shouldn’t spend almost $1 million to bring the 60-year-old structure up to code.
The board has been considering what it will do with the aging building since it launched discussions about the Cow Palace earlier this year.
“It makes no sense to make that kind of investment on a 60-year-old Quonset hut,” Gilpin said of the facility. “I’m proposing we build a new building. We have tourist development funds to do it with.”
While county staff supported plans to renovate the existing building, Gilpin said he thinks that recommendation isn’t a good one.
Gilpin said that by agreeing to spend that amount of money to refurbish the building, the board will have only remedied the existing problems with the building and not provided a facility that would be advantageous to the county.
“We owe it to our agricultural community to invest in (a new building),” he said.
Commission Chairman Garry Breeden cautioned the board that the building should be immediately shutdown because of the numerous code violations and safety issues that were found in the building.
“We need to shut that business down until it’s safe,” he said.
Gilpin made the motion not to proceed with plans to refurbish the Cow Palace and proceed with its immediate condemnation.
With the planned demolition of the building,representatives of the Sumter County Fair Board were expected to address the County Commission Tuesday night to determine what plans can be made so that livestock shows and other events during the 2013 fair will not be jeopardized by the County Commission’s decision.
If the building is demolished early enough  Barb Kane, fair coordinator, said a large tent could be used to meet the fair needs.
However, Kane said the Fair Board needs more specifics from the County Commission and was hoping to get that clarification Tuesday night.
The Times will provide additional information about that meeting in next week’s edition.