Some things weren’t meant to last forever, and one of those things is the bathroom facility at the Rice County Fairgrounds.

“That’s the one thing people complain about the most,” John Dvorak, manager of the Rice County Fairgrounds, said of the bathroom facility. “When they come to the fair, they want to have a good experience, and one way to do that is to have more comfortable bathrooms.”

Apart from being unpleasant, the outdated bathrooms are not handicap accessible and therefore miss the mark of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. During the coronavirus pandemic, the facilities also lack a proper setup for social distancing and fail to meet hygiene standards.

The Rice County Commissioners also saw the need for new restrooms on the fairgrounds and approved an advertisement for bids during its Aug. 25 meeting. Parks and Facilities Director Matt Veridick made the request to the Rice County Board of Commissioners.

Funding from the Coronavirus Relief, Aid and Economic Security (CARES) Act will be used for the project, which Dvorak expects to cost upward of $250,000. The bidding period began Sept. 1 and ends Sept. 22, giving contractors three weeks to compose their bids. Construction will begin soon after selection of the contractor, and the substantial completion date is Dec. 1.

Although traces of asbestos found in the facility delayed the demolition, Dvorak said the bathrooms are ready to be torn down Monday.

While he isn’t sure of the exact year the restrooms were built, Dvorak knows the initial structure functioned as a men’s restroom only. The women’s portion of the facility was added later.

The current restroom has six stalls on either side, and the new restrooms will have the same footprint with six women’s stalls, three men’s toilets and three urinals. Both sides will contain three sinks and handicap stalls. Unlike the old restroom, the new building will have a unisex bathroom with a shower on the west end.

To meet COVID-19 requirements, the modern bathrooms will have an entrance on one side of the building and an exit on the opposite end to prevent interactions. Automatic faucets and paper towel dispensers will reduce the number of surfaces users need to touch.

Depending on the bids, Dvorak said the bathroom may include hand dryers instead of paper towels.

The Rice County Fair is usually the only occasion when the bathrooms are open, said Dvorak, but he hopes the new restrooms draw more activities to the fairgrounds.While it was once an embarrassment to open up the bathrooms for functions, he said the new facility will be more inviting.

“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m just grateful the county administrator and commissioners saw the need that it was time to replace it, and we’re able to use some of the funding coming from the CARES Act,” Dvorak said. “It can only help improve the fairgrounds.”

Reporter Misty Schwab can be reached at 507-333-3135. Follow her on Twitter @APGmisty. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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