The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
The Times 

Council Returns to Grandstand Dilemma

Three entities recommend removal but city would like to retain the history


Courtesy Image

Photos like these, included in a risk assessement report, point out rotting wood, wood-to-soil, toenailed joints, and sub-standard construction of the Waitsburg grandstands.

WAITSBURG – After investing more than a year and spending thousands of dollars for engineering reports, drawings, and structural assessments to determine if renovating the Waitsburg fairgrounds grandstands is feasible, the outlook is bleak.

City Manager Randy Hinchliffe reported to council members that two engineers and a risk control representative have examined the grandstands and all three agree that the building is unsafe and that demolition may be the best option.

Engineer John Raby was hired by the city to perform a structural assessment and create drawing of the grandstands. He provided the city with four options, ranging from "low" to "best." Cost estimates ranged from $30,000 for the "low" option to $500,000-$750,000 for the "best" option, which was the only option that met code and public safety requirements.

"Tearing it down may be the best solution and then buying a pre-fab open air bleacher set. In any event, the biggest problem I see is an outdated, poorly constructed grandstand owned by a municipality that has public safety issues and liability. I recommend that if it is repaired at all then it should be brought up to full compliance," Raby stated in his summary recommendations.

Last month, Hinchliffe brought in a risk control representative to perform a risk assessment, independent of the two engineering firms. Their safety report listed many issues and recommended removal of the grandstands.

Council member Kate Hockersmith requested that the council hold off on any decision until the Friends of the Fairgrounds (FOF) committee has an opportunity to see the reports and discuss the issue.

"This is our history we're talking about. We might as well get rid of the whole town if safety is the issue. . . it's a treasure that no one can duplicate and we need to save it," she said. "If you're going to do something like this we better have a public meeting and find out what the town thinks."

FOF chair, Lane Hill, introduced engineer Barb Jaksa, who has a master's in architecture and is familiar with large rehabilitation projects. Jaksa reviewed the report and made several recommendations including: soil testing, inspection for structural grade of existing wood, and developing a space analysis of the fairgrounds.

She commented that the structural grade of the wooden members used in the grandstands is much more sound that what is used today, and that she couldn't tell what grade of wood was used in the computer model.

"There are definitely more things that need to go into consideration before deciding that demolition is the route. I think that there's an opportunity here," she said.

Kuykendall said that the cost of deconstruction or demolition could run $50,000-$80,000 to have a licensed demolition contractor level the ground.

"I want to have that data point before we can do any compare and contrast between the alternative which is a much better alternative, if we have to spend $100,000 to get the grandstands usable for another 20, 30, 40 years," Kuykendall said.

Hinchliffe said he would begin checking into demolition costs and would stencil a "no trespassing" sign on the grandstands and check on the barricades. The topic was tabled and will return to the council for further discussion.

A look back at the process

In Feb. 2016, Hinchliffe informed council members that Murar Engineering and Design had performed a visual assessment on the grandstands and that their structural engineering report indicated the building was in serious need of repair. The firm deemed the grandstands unsafe and listed three recommendations: bringing the structure up to standards, tearing it down and removing it, or barricading it from public access.

The report indicated that making the structure safe would require new concrete interior and exterior footings, replacing or repairing rotted main support columns.

Council member KC Kuykendall said he knew a structural engineer who would be willing to provide a secondary engineering report, at no cost to the city, before the next council meeting. The city agreed to barricade the building and placed no trespassing signs to limit liability, while awaiting the second report before making any decisions.

A public meeting regarding the fairgrounds renovation was held in March 2016, and many residents spoke in favor of retaining the historical value of the grandstands. Several people said they would volunteer with repairs if the building could be saved.

Later that month, Kuykendall reported that a very preliminary inspection indicated that, while the structure is deemed unsafe, the structure is a common design and similar structures have undergone renovations that were "surprisingly affordable."

In April of 2016 Kuykendall reported that he had spoken to two structural engineers who specialize in pole barn style facilities, and that one in Spokane was willing to work with the city. He said that, after reviewing the original engineer's report, the Spokane engineer felt he could come up with less expensive alternatives. Kuykendall requested that the city set aside up to $2,500 to enter into an engineering services contract to evaluate options, and that motion was approved the council.

In Sept. of 2016, Kuykendall reported that structural engineer John Raby had inspected the grandstands and was confident that it would be a "very doable renovation with no reason that the building couldn't be restored to sound structural shape." The council unanimously approved a $4,500 purchase of design plans to aid in performing load calculations and to be used for construction drawings when the project is set out for bid, since no drawings currently existed. The council agreed that funds in the amount of $4578, that had been previously collected for fairgrounds stall rental, would be used toward the engineering fees.

In May of 2017 the engineer emailed Hinchliffe saying the 3-D model and load-carrying combinations were complete. He expressed concerns about occupant load, saying that the building was built with very poor connection strengths and that the project was at a temporary standstill until he could obtain more data on the connections.

In early June, Raby contacted Hinchliffe to request that the council give approval on the maximum budget the city is willing to accept for renovations and listed four options. The "low" option, at $30,000, would "patch together the minimum" with low seating numbers, strong occupant load control, and the grandstand would be closed during any significant wind or snow.

The "medium" option, at $100,000, would result in "modestly higher seating numbers" but still careful with occupant load and closed during wind or snow. At "$250,000, the grandstands could handle much higher seating numbers and be open during wind and snow. None of the three options meet all code and public safety requirements, Raby said.

The "best" option would reinforce all critical seating support members, add additional columns, add connection reinforcements to the roof framing and add high wind connections, at a cost of $500,000 - $750,000. This option would meet all code and safety requirements.

Raby said that the scope of his engineering services stops at "low" and all other options would require additional engineering service and building fees.

In mid-June Hinchliffe requested an independent risk assessment from Clear Risk Solutions. Their representative recommended that if the city moves forward with renovations, bringing the grandstands fully up to code and safety requirements should be the only option. Anything less would open the door to lawsuits.

"We recommend removal of the grandstands. The grandstands are made up of all lumber that might have monetary value to someone. An organization might even be willing to pay for and dismantle the grandstands," the report states.


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