Yesterday, we had a guest writer who was kind enough to pen a summary of the meetings on the fairgrounds plan. What I got from it was that the roundabout would be offset by adding to the fairgrounds by extending it through purchases towards Hwy 38. There is another, cheaper, option highlighted in a comment which came in to our website a few days ago. Read this comment first, then we’ll compare these ideas.
“The cut thru the fairgrounds was a topic when the middle school site was just a possible site but, the school district wanted the much more expensive Golf Course rd. site so it was a terrible idea then. Oh how politics change. The simple option was asphalt the whole dirt parking south parking lot and built it a road angled to connect to the road behind Ice Lake. Close the road for the fair in the summer and be done with it as school is not in session anyway. The real story, here we go again with another big SEH engineering project promoted by the existing and ex SEH employees working for the county and city. The real tragedy, the poor people living there get assessed out of their homes. These people are merciless, why because many of them don’t care because they live outside Grand Rapids and don’t feel the pain.”
First, let’s look at the proposal to build a roundabout and extend the fairgrounds to the west. Here is a map with the general area effected by the roundabout highlighted:
Who benefits from this? Of course, the contractor hired to construct it, but also SEH, the the engineering firm which has planned roundabouts for the city in the past. Coincidentally, both the city and the county employ past SEH employees, such as City Administrator Tom Pagel, who used to work for SEH.
Does anyone else benefit from this plan? Of course. One of the first pieces of property which must be purchased in order to extend the fairgrounds west happens to belong to the Wilcox family. The name Wilcox brings to mind the Grand Rapids State Bank. The bank where the City of Grand Rapids keeps a large sum of money.
Here is a map showing the property:
In case the Grand Rapids State Bank sounds familiar, keep in mind that one of its VP”s is on the board of the Itasca Economic Development Corporation, another is on the board of the Grand Rapids Economic Development Authority, and a third is on the Grand Rapids City Council. The Mayor’s wife also works for the Grand Rapids State Bank.
This is all starting to appear as if we may have a serious conflict of interest situation developing here, doesn’t it?
Maybe to avoid the appearance of having a conflict of interest, the Wilcox family could just donate this property to the fairgrounds rather than selling it. That would certainly reflect favorably on them, but would still leave us with the bill for the roundabout.
There is a much cheaper option, as alluded to in the comment I opened with, which is to simply put an angled road through the fairgrounds which can be closed during summer events, yet open for the school year. This would not involve losing the use of the south portion of the parking/midway area, and would save us a lot of money. Look at the next map, and you will see that I drew a line through with a highlighter to illustrate the approximate location of the road:
As you can see, this would make a minimal difference to the layout of the fairgrounds, and would save enough money that we may be able to look into paving part of the unpaved parking area.
The drawback to this simple solution? All of the money we save will be money someone else doesn’t pocket.
It is not too late to put enough pressure on the city and county councils to scrap the roundabout idea and do something simpler and cheaper. After all, they do work for us, right?