Havre Daily News
The group working to build a special events center to the Hill County Fairgrounds has made significant progress toward securing the funding needed to design a master plan for the fairgrounds.
Funding chair Chuck Wimmer reported at an events center committee meeting on Monday that 39 businesses in the community have so far donated more than $18,000 to the project.
The money will be used to match grant funding the group will seek to pay an engineering firm to design a new plan for the entire fairgrounds. The event center is part of the planned improvements there.
Hill County Commissioner Kathy Bessette said the county is fully behind the project to revamp the fairgrounds.
"We are going ahead with a master plan," she said. "We had a lot of support for it."
Bear Paw Development Corp. executive director Paul Tuss said his organization will immediately begin working on an application for federal Community Development Block Grant funding to assist in the cost of the plan. Tuss said he would seek the maximum amount, $15,000.
Events center committee co-chair Craig Tilleman said the group could expect to have a firm working on the plan by mid-July.
Great Falls-based CTA Architects and Engineers looks to be an easy front-runner to win the contract to lay out the master plan, as architect Marty Byrnes has been involved in the early planning stages for the events center, several committee members said.
In order to get the CDBG funds, however, the group must jump through the necessary hoops and open the project to bids from other firms, Tuss said.
Wimmer suggested it would be nice to have some sort of plans drawn up and available for display at the fairgrounds during the Great Northern Fair, to be held the second week of August, in order to begin the process of educating the public about the project.
Wimmer said he was pleased with the progress that has been made with fund raising.
"I want to thank everybody for their support," he said. "I'm hoping, as time goes on, people continue to donate. I know we can raise more money. Most of the people I've talked to are in favor of it."
Wimmer said anyone interested in donating to the project can contact him at Stockman Bank, at 265-5831.
Committee co-chair Brent Reber said there has been some confusion in the community regarding the events center and a visitor center also proposed at the fairgrounds. Some think the project is the same thing, and others question why the two projects are not combined, Reber said.
The visitor center will also be included in the master plan for the fairgrounds. Its purpose will be to draw visitors to the fairgrounds and educate travelers about the culture and history of the area. The events center will be used to host large events such as athletic competitions, trade shows and conventions.
The two projects are being kept separate in order to avoid lumping the costs together, Bear Paw Development Corp. planner Craig Erickson said. The events center is estimated to cost more than $14 million, and the visitor center will cost between $1.4 million and $2.4 million, he said.
The next meeting to discuss the special events center will be held in the U.S. Bank meeting room at 10 a.m. on June 27.