Center money looks likely; Carroll legislators ready to OK $300,000 request for new arena; No 'problems at all'; Agricultural center, neighbors negotiate differences over site


The county delegation is prepared to say yes when the Carroll County Agriculture Center Board hands it a request by Monday, expected to be for at least $300,000.

The board will ask the delegation to resurrect a bill providing additional money toward building an indoor arena.

State Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Republican who is leader of the delegation, said he is prepared to support more money if it makes the $2.235 million building more acceptable to neighbors worried about it breaking up the pastoral view.

"I'll go along with that, if it satisfies the community, and meets the needs of the ag center," Haines said. "I don't think we'll have any problems at all. I think they've worked out their differences with the community."

Haines said he expects the money to come from the General Assembly without a hitch. Last year, a bond bill seeking the money was withdrawn by the delegate who introduced it, until concerns from neighbors were addressed.

Since then, members of a Neighborhood Advisory Committee to the Agriculture Center Board have met with board members to discuss plans.

"We're going to continue to work with all parties concerned and work toward the start date of August-September construction," said Lawrence Meeks, a grain farmer and board president. "But the board has considered a number of options and studied it in detail, and it's taken time to do. Those decisions will be coming forth very soon. The design hasn't changed. The site preparation could change."

He said he could not give details, which he and other board members will be completing up to their Monday deadline to get a proposal to Haines' office, so that his staff can process it and the delegation can include it in their bills by the end of the month.

Last year, neighbors raised concerns when the center switched the proposed site for the arena to a spot that would have interrupted the scenic vista. Originally, the building, to be called the Danele Shipley Memorial Arena, was to be next to the center's barns and buildings.

Then-Del. Ellen Willis Miller had introduced the bond bill in the 1998 session, asking the state for $300,000. But when the neighbors raised concerns, she withdrew the bill with the understanding it would be approved in the 1999 session after the board and community reached an agreement.

Miller -- the sole Democrat in the delegation -- was defeated in the fall election.

Haines said yesterday that if it costs more in grading and excavation to put the center where neighbors prefer it, he would agree to giving the center more than the original $300,000.

The cost for the building is $2.235 million. The board received $400,000 from the state two years ago in a matching program, and has raised $1 million in cash and pledges, Meeks said.

The arena will be named for Shipley, a speech and hearing teacher who had been active in 4-H as a youth. She died in 1995 at age 41. Her parents, farmers Daniel and Eleanor Shipley, have donated $200,000 toward the arena.

The arena would provide the center with more opportunities for shows and contests year-round. Meeks said organizers of events such as a recreational vehicle show and a dairy cattle show have approached the center about having events there.

Meeks said Miller's withdrawal of the bill last year surprised and disappointed supporters of the center. But the year delay will not affect plans to begin construction in August or September, a target the board had set about 18 months ago.

"We started to really work on this building in an earnest fashion in the late summer, early fall of 1995," Meeks said. "But there were preliminary efforts made earlier. I was putting all this together this week, and I realized, Lord, it's been almost four years. I knew it wouldn't be quick."

Pub Date: 1/22/99

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