Cow Palace questions still linger

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By Bob Reichman

Representatives of the Sumter County Fair Board took their concerns to the County Commission last week concerning the fate of the Cow Palace at the Sumter County Fairgrounds.
In particular, Kenny Ray, president of the Fair Board, told commissioners he was concerned about the potential problems that could be created for the 2013 county fair regarding the county’s recent actions to condemn and its plans to demolish the existing Cow Palace, the hub of livestock activity during the annual fair.
Commissioners were considering refurbishing the 60-year-old building, but after reviewing an evaluation of the building, they agreed instead that it needed to be demolished and condemned because it does not meet county codes and would be financially imprudent to sink almost $1 million into just renovating the aging building.
Ray told commissioners last week that their plans to demolish the building could interfere with all of the different livestock shows that happen during the March 2013 fair.
County Administrator Bradley Arnold said he expects that the demolition work can be achieved before the fair begins.
Arnold said county staff will move quickly to request bids in an attempt to have the work done before the fair starts March 8, 2013. If that cannot be accomplished, then the demolition work would take place after the week-long fair ends.
While county commissioners appeared supportive of those plans, questions still remain concerning what type of housing will be used for the livestock shows.
Whether or not the building is demolished in time, it will not be usable for the fair.
 The fair board is expected to begin considering what type of temporary structure would be suitable for livestock shows.
Additional discussions about the Cow Palace are expected when the County Commission meets again on Nov. 27 and reviews architectural plans.