Equine facility plans hobbled
Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

Jan. 25, 2005 -- Civic Center Board members, county commissioners and architects met in a workshop session Tuesday morning to search for ways to move forward with the start of construction of a proposed equine facility at Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.

The county authorized the issuance of $750,000 in certificates of obligation to fund the project late last year, but that may not be enough money, according to architect W.C. Ferrell.

After meeting with city officials regarding building codes and other requirements, Ferrell told commissioners that several changes would need to be made that could mean an increase in overall costs.

"The purpose of the meeting was to discuss this project and figure out how the city was going to treat us as far as occupancy classification, and determine what all codes and issues we are going to have to solve," Ferrell said. "One of the main things I learned at that time was a portion of the building, where it is planned, is in a Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] flood plain."

Having a portion of the building located in the flood plain would not necessarily prevent construction, but would require engineering studies and a revision of the flood plain map approved by the federal agency.

Ferrell told commissioners that the revision of the map would involve a redesign of the flood plain in the proposed construction area because of the work needed to bring the elevation above flood plain levels. The work would be expensive and time-consuming.

"In order to locate the building, as planned, partially in a flood plain, a qualified civil engineer will need to provide grading design and hydrology calculations of the immediate area, modifying the flood plain area," Ferrell told commissioners. "This requires submission to FEMA for a 'conditional letter of map revision.' This would require as much as $15,000 to $20,000 in engineering fees and a six-month waiting process for government approval. Only until the FEMA letter is received can grading and dirt work take place in the flood plain."

Discussion then moved to ways building plans might be re-engineered to allow the building to be constructed in a way that would keep it out of the flood plain. That re-design could mean a reduction in overall area of the building and a reduction in the number of stalls for livestock, as well as a change in building dimensions.

County commissioners said they were interested in getting the project under way, but emphasized their desire to keep the projected $750,000 expenditure in line with the ability to retire the debt using only additional revenues generated by the new facility, along with a portion of the city's hotel occupancy tax designated for Civic Center use.

Additional expenses could also come through steps that would need to be taken to meet the city's building code.

"Due to the intended use of the facility, it will be classified by the city as an assembly occupancy [building]," Ferrell told those attending the meeting. "With this occupancy classification, the building would require [some] basic elements."

Those elements would include a fully automated, dry-pipe fire sprinkler system, an automated fire alarm system that would be tied directly into the power ventilation system, fire extinguishers, easily recognizable paths out of the structure, portable lighting, a fire lane and fire hydrants.

The architect said there could be additional expense in connecting to city water lines on Buford Circle and Gladys Alexander Drive. He said the city would require the county to install water supply lines that would connect to mains on both streets to provide water supply from either water main.

Sewer connections would not present a problem because of service already in place for the Civic Center.

Still another area discussed involved the need for a basin to retain water from the facility during heavy rains that would allow the water to run off at a slower rate and prevent flooding or soil erosion.

A cost-saving recommendation to utilize a dirt floor rather than a cement floor was also discussed. A dirt floor, however, would not be without some complications involving the use of bulk horse waste that would have to be hauled from the building on a routine basis while events are under way, and the possibility of having to have dedicated containers for the waste material.

"During these events water will be used extensively and horse urine will be soaking into the ground," Ferrell said, "Over time, this situation will prove to be unsanitary."

He said it would be in the county's best interests to also address potential odor, fly and rodent problems that would be likely to occur with a dirt floor.

By late morning, no decision had been reached, and commissioners were asking Civic Center Board members to present a recommendation for consideration.

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