Rushed plans can lead to more delays

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2012

Legendary college basketball coach John Wooden famously said, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Those wise words apply well beyond the court.

Lawrence County officials and the county fair board would be well served to heed the coach’s advice.

Efforts to build a livestock barn and arena before the July fair continue to encounter a variety of hurdles and it appears the drive to get this accomplished in a hurry is compounding the problems.

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The fair board recently opted to void a contract with the firm originally hired to build the structure and now has to attempt to recover nearly $200,000 that has already been paid to that company. The slim chances of getting this money back without spending just as much in legal fees, and the fact that the contractor will almost certainly sue for breach of contract, means a lengthy court battle is likely on the horizon.

The fair board also opted to issue bonds for $700,000 with plans to sell these to the county. This means the board has nearly doubled the debt associated with this project — at least for now. A further area of concern is that the fair board did all this while the president was out of town and wasn’t given the chance to have a voice in the decisions.

The county’s advisory committee approved purchasing the bonds, which means taxpayer money is now invested in this project.

It is certainly a valid question whether or not the advisory board should have voted on this because three of the five members have significant ties to the fair board or the barn committee, making this a conflict of interest.

And, unlike the situations when the county purchases bonds from a municipality that is distributed property tax revenue each year, it could be far more difficult to recover this money if the fair board were to default on its terms with the county.

Let’s be very clear: The Lawrence County Fairgrounds need a new livestock barn and this is a good investment in a community facility when done with mostly private funds. However, the project has to be approached cautiously when it involves public monies from a cash-strapped county.

Hopefully the county and the fair board will slow down and focus on the big picture of ensuring this project is completed as efficiently and affordable as possible.

Let’s move quickly, but we don’t need to rush.