It’s a topic no one seems to want to address — or deal with: the aging restroom facility at the Rice County Fairgrounds.
But as it has for the past three years, the Rice County Board of Commissioners, during annual budget discussions Sept. 17, touched on the dilapidated building. Commissioner Dave Miller, who sits on the Fair Board, looked disgusted with the inaction, while Commissioner Jeff Docken strongly urged his fellow board members to come up with a plan to fix up or even tear down the deteriorated facilities.
“We need to have a plan,” Docken said, noting that it’s been a topic of discussion since the beginning of his first term. That was 2009. “We can’t keep avoiding these problems.”
Fair Manager John Dvorak said that he’s optimistic that after years of kicking the can down the road, next year could finally be the year that new restrooms are in place at the fairgrounds. He hopes to go to the county board in the next few months with plans that could see the new restrooms in place in time for next year’s county fair.
When the restroom building at the heart of the fairgrounds was first built, it was the only freestanding building with restrooms in it. Now, restroom facilities are also available at Gillen Hall, somewhat reducing the pressure on the old restrooms. Dvorak also opens up the restrooms in the Fairgrounds office during fair time to reduce stress further.
Dvorak said that over the years, the restrooms have been significantly modified and deteriorated. He strongly believes that the best, most effective way to deal with the issue is to bulldoze the old building and replace it with a new one.
“It’s best if we start from scratch, get the infrastructure in there the way it needs to be,” Dvorak said. “The new restrooms will hopefully last as long as these lasted.”
Dvorak has said in the past that he’s optimistic such a replacement could more than pay for itself through increased rentals. He said that when he shows the fairgrounds to organizations looking for a place to host a large event, the restrooms are often a sore spot that turns potential renters off.
According to Dvorak, the new restroom building will likely have a similar square footage to the current building. He’s talked with architects that believe the new building might have one or two fewer toilets if it retains the same size, but believes that it would be adequate given the fair’s other restroom facilities.
Although Dvorak hopes to have the new restrooms ready for next year’s fair, he said he wants to make sure they are built to last. He wants the building design to be easy to clean and maintain, and hard to vandalize.
“I don’t want to put it together,” he said. “I want to take enough time to make sure it’s right. If it means it’ll take a little bit longer because we’re going to put up a better building, so be it.”