County, school district eye cooperation

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EPHRATA — Grant County and the Moses Lake School District are preparing to work together to develop shared parking lots and road access at the site the Grant County Fairgrounds and the proposed second high school share at West Valley and Paxson Drive.

“Shared parking works perfectly for us,” said Mickey Webb, director of the Grant County Fair, during a meeting Tuesday morning with Moses Lake School Superintendent Josh Meek and David Beaudine, the project manager overseeing the high school project.

“It just makes sense to collaborate on this,” said Commissioner Tom Taylor.

Meek and Beaudine also meet with Taylor and Commissioner Richard Stevens, Grant County Planning Director Damien Hooper, and Tom Gaines, director of Central Services, which oversees facilities, maintenance, and technology for the counry.

The school district always envisioned sharing parking with the Fairgrounds, Meek said, especially the blue lot — which fronts on West Valley Drive and part of which is now school property — as event parking for the proposed school’s performing arts center and gymnasium.

“We are looking at some large parking areas,” Meek said. “The performing arts center we are considering will seat 1,000-1,250, and the gym will seat 2,500. So we’d like shared use of the (blue) parking lot on Valley, but it’s not adequate as gravel.”

If built, Meek said the new school’s theater would be the largest venue “of its kind in the area.”

Webb, who was hired as fairgrounds director earlier this year, said if the fairgrounds could get access to the gym and a proposed high school commons, it would allow him to bid for several major events — such as national junior and high school rodeo finals — that require upwards of 60,000 square feet of exhibitor space, which the fairgrounds currently doesn’t have.

“If we could make it a positive for the community, we are absolutely open to that,” Meek said.

Project Manager Beaudine said the city of Moses Lake wants all traffic access to the school to enter and exit on Paxson rather than West Valley.

“We’re not allowed to make another cut on West Valley,” he said.

However, Hooper said West Valley from Paxson to Airport Drive is a county-maintained road, and not the responsibility of the city. Commissioners agreed they would be happy to allow the school to have access to West Valley, especially if it meant moving the entrance to the blue parking lot east and extending that road all the way north as an access road and boundary between the fairgrounds and the high school.

Webb said he also wanted to allow continued access to the fairgrounds from Paxson, especially for equestrian events, though in a way that wouldn’t jeopardize students or crowd school activities. Both Webb and Beaudine suggested extending North Central west to the fairgrounds.

“There’s lots of RV and horse trailer traffic on Friday and Saturday, with Thursday move-ins, for horse shows,” Webb said.

However, that would be a complicated endeavor, since the Grant County Public Utility District owns a small substation on a patch of land that narrows the roadway considerably, and a pretty steep slope would require a great deal of work to make usable.

No formal agreements came out of the hour-long meeting. The $135 million school construction bond which passed last February with a bare 60.003 percent approval is currently held up in the state appeals court by a group of Moses Lake voters who are contesting the Grant County auditor’s certification of the bond election.

The Moses Lake School District bought a roughly 50-acre plot that was an undeveloped portion of the Grant County Fairgrounds last year as a site for the second high school. However, construction cannot begin until the bonds are sold, and bonds cannot be sold until all court challenges are settled.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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