A proposal provided by the Union County Fair Board, with a quote from Goodwin Services, estimates repairing damage to the fairgrounds caused by COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics will cost more than $280,000. The project is broken into seven areas of roadway that would be repaired, each labeled with a letter and highlighted above. Section A represents the Route 4 entrance, while Section F surrounds the rabbit/poultry barn where vaccines were administered. (Graphic submitted)
The Union County Health Department could be liable to pay the Union County Fair Board what it claims is more than $280,000 in damages to the fairgrounds.
“There is a sticker shock,” said Union County Health Commissioner Jason Orcena.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the Board of Health unanimously approved the first of several reimbursements to repair facilities at the Union County Fairgrounds resulting from the health department’s COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics.
The total sum of the project, according to the quote from Goodwin Services, would cost $282,785.36.
“It’s a lot,” he said.
The health department is able to gather other estimates or have experts review the quote provided by the fair board, meaning it may be more expensive than the actual cost.
Whatever the final amount, Orcena said health department staff is hopeful it will be covered by COVID recovery funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
He said the Ohio Emergency Management Agency is supporting the local health department’s request to the federal government, but the money is “not a guarantee.”
If FEMA does not cover the cost, Orcena said the health department could explore whether the county or city would be willing to use their CARES Act dollars.
Regardless of the source of funding, several board members said they felt a price estimate provided by the fair board dramatically exceeded the cost of actual damage caused during vaccination efforts.
“If it doesn’t pass the sniff test, someone is paying additional money, whether it’s us or FEMA,” said Board member Justin Krueger.
Orcena said a $20,000 payment approved Wednesday includes grading and adding new rock to the area around the rabbit/poultry barn, which housed UCHD’s COVID vaccination efforts. It would also cover the cost to repair a garage door that was “clipped” by a volunteer.
The first payment was approved early because the fair board requested those issues be addressed prior to the start of the Union County Fair on July 25.
Orcena said there was other “significant damage” caused by road traffic during the winter. He said some portions of the roadway were broken to the point that they will need to be completely removed and replaced.
Board members Tiffany Wood and Mark Smith questioned whether the damage was caused solely by health department use of the grounds.
“That road’s been a mess since I was a little girl,” Wood said.
Orcena noted that the health department is contractually obligated to reimburse the fair board for costs incurred because of the vaccine clinics.
He emphasized that FEMA will only pay to restore the grounds to the condition they were in previously, not improve them further.
However, he said much of the road – which was chip-sealed, but not paved – was broken prior to the health department’s arrival.
For that reason, Orcena said it would be impossible to restore the grounds to the exact state they were in but they need to at least be comparable.
“That almost surely means they will be better,” he explained.
Health Promotions and Planning Director Shawn Sech said health department employees took extensive photos of the site before beginning their clinics.
Board President Keith Watson said the photos, which can be compared to the current state of the grounds, are “our biggest leg to stand on.”
Orcena said the initial estimate was provided by Goodwin Services. He said that number was simply used as a baseline to submit a reimbursement request to FEMA.
The project is broken into seven areas that would be repaired: the driveway from the Route 4 entrance, midway, fair office area, the road between the horse barn and merchants building, the road between the Route 4 entrance and rabbit/poultry barn, barn entrance and road around the show arena.
The proposal includes all equipment, materials and labor required.
The work completed would include cutting and removing asphalt and concrete, installing a stone base, importing asphalt grindings and compacting them, chip sealing all paved areas “currently in stable condition,” double chip sealing stone driveways and “areas disturbed with pavement removal,” plus full-depth subgrade repairs.
Board members encouraged UCHD staff to explore other options and ensure the pricing is fair.
“I personally think (the fair board is) going to use us to get good driveways,” Smith said.
Orcena said that the scope and cost of the project will be reviewed prior to any work being done.
He emphasized that he feels the current fair board is a “really good partner.”
The two parties have had “really good discussions,” Orcena said, and he wants to ensure the health department does its part to maintain a strong working relationship.
“We want to make sure if we have to go back out there, we’re ready to go again,” Orcena said.
The health department paid $10,000 each month November through March to rent the grounds from the fair board, plus an additional $2,000 in April and $1,500 in May.
Orcena said this made up for “lost revenue” the fair board would have collected through winter storage costs typically generated at the barn used for vaccinations.
UCHD also paid $11,900 to winterize and renovate the bathroom facilities at the fairgrounds.
In total, the health department paid $65,400 to use the fairgrounds for the county’s mass vaccination clinics.
UCHD hosted 56 clinics at the fairgrounds and vaccinated approximately 25,000 people at no cost to them.