Commissioners court discusses fairground’s future

Three years and one month later, no ground has been broken and negotiations with contractors are still ongoing.
Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 10:59 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - The future of LIFE Downs Fairgrounds is still uncertain, but the conversations continue among Webb County commissioners.

Three years and one month later, no ground has been broken and negotiations with contractors are still ongoing.

Those negotiations became animated, as one commissioner wasn’t on board with the rest.

“I do have a difference of opinion with you today,” said Commissioner John Galo.

In a special commissioners court meeting Thursday, an engineering firm presented its case to oversee the process of designing, constructing and renovating the fairgrounds in addition to evaluating the schedule and budget, coordinating surveying, and much more.

In a vote of four to one, the motion carried to pay Gilpin engineering $1.4 million as owner’s representative and program manager.

Commissioner John Galo was the only vote against.

“I seriously don’t like the idea of y’all having the master plan.”

He says the project has not been done in a timely fashion and is frustrated with the lack of communication.

“I am a fiscal watchdog, and I think that money is better spent on the project itself.... This was not done timely. We should have had these conversations nine months ago.”

Galo wants an architect to oversee the masterplan, whereas Gilpin Engineering says it would be more efficient for them to do it all.

Thursday’s vote comes three years and one month after Webb County commissioners voted to revoke its license agreement with the Laredo International Fair and Exposition, otherwise known as LIFE, in March 2018.

The county wanted to manage the fairgrounds property itself and to make renovations.

In July 2018 an engineering firm, Hanson Professional Services, was chosen with a contract of $193,000.

Fast forward a year later, commissioners decided that the county would gain full control of the management and oversight of the fairgrounds by March 15th, 2019.

Yet another year later, commissioners hired on another engineering firm- Gilpin Engineering.

By August 2020, commissioners voted to find an architecture firm, after terminating its contract with Hanson Professional Services, eventually choosing JHS Architect.

The second item on the commissioner’s agenda was entering into an agreement with JHS for around $3.1 million, but Gilpin engineering wants to be considered for the job.

The court voted unanimously to table the item so they can discuss and negotiate with Gilpin.

Gilpin Engineering estimated that construction wouldn’t happen for at least another year with the rainy season potentially impeding the progress.

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