There has been much discussion about the cost associated with the Deseret Peak Complex, the layoff of the entire staff, the need for possible shut down, and even talk about contracting out. I want to express my opinions about the subject.
First, I want to establish my credentials and my experience regarding a fair grounds’ operation and maintenance of a large facility. I have been a registered professional engineer for 40 years. I was the plant engineer and operations superintendent at International Smelting and Refining Company for four years. I was also Director of the Chemical Agent Munitions Disposal System (CAMDS) for 12 years. CAMDS employed more than 250 operational and maintenance personnel.
The International Smelter and CAMDS relied on skilled and dedicated employees to operate and maintain complex equipment.
My experience with the Tooele County fair grounds goes back to my high school days when the county fair was held in the old junior high gymnasium. For the stock show we built pens in vacant fields south of the present Pratt Aquatic Center out of salvaged pallets from Tooele Army Depot.
In the early 1980’s a friend of mine, Dan Hill, and I, petitioned Tooele City and Tooele County to get together and build the Tooele City County Complex, which included the Bit and Spur Rodeo Grounds and land that now holds the Dow James Ballpark and building. We found an interested County Commissioner, Lee Bracken, who had more foresight and more ambition than his predecessors.
He could see that Tooele County needed a fair grounds. John Cluff was Tooele’s mayor at the time and George Diehl was his assistant. They both enthusiastically supported the project. In 1983 that agreement was signed, and the Dow James building was built. The County Fair was held there for several years. Later, Teryl Hunsaker became a county commissioner and he had bigger and better dreams for a fair grounds. Teryl took the bull by the horns and used the dollars coming from the West Desert to build for Tooele County citizens a large, complete county fair grounds and named it Deseret Peak Complex. Bless his heart.
That’s the history part. Now for Deseret Peak Complex’s costs and what to do about them.
One of the things that has not been mentioned in regard to Deseret Peak Complex is the economic benefit to local businesses the complex brings to town. The demolition derby, motorcycle races, softball tournaments, rodeos and horseshows all attract a large number of people to local hotels, restaurants and stores. Maybe some of the businessmen in town need to step up and be heard.
No one should think that a fair grounds or any public funded recreational facility should make a profit. No other fair grounds in Utah does. Tooele City’s golf course and aquatic center costs more out of pocket dollars to operate than does Deseret Peak Complex.
The operation of some of the stand alone facility — the swimming pool, the motor cycle track, the horse racing track — may be able to be contracted out or turned over to an organization that sponsors such things. I don’t know about those things or the cash flow because I haven’t been involved with them.
I also think that some savings could be made in the way of utilities. More judicious use of the lighting over ballparks, reduction of heating and air-conditioning in the buildings for example, could be done.
Certain things like the county fair and the stock show, our youth have been preparing to participate in for a year. Some of our youth started last year buying calves or breeding sheep and pigs for them to show in our county fair in July, as well as the craft and the 4H and FFA projects. The same goes for all the other things that our citizens have been preparing to exhibit. The Wild Horse and Heritage Days is a good investment in the future. The ball is already rolling!
We have a multi-million dollar facility in Deseret Peak with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of fixed equipment such as plumbing, heating system, lighting, and also mobile equipment including tractors, trucks, and front-end loaders. We also have electronic equipment, PA systems, etc. All this requires special operation and maintenance.
If that equipment and the maintenance of the facility are turned over to a contractor, it will be a total disaster. The contractor pays small wages so that they can make a profit. I have had personal experience with that kind of situation with horrible results. Contractor personnel do not have the knowledge to take care of such equipment, and they don’t care whether it is serviced or not.
Our high-dollar facility use and maintenance needs to be in the hands of our present employees who have the know-how and the vested interest to take care of it. People who talk about contracting out are speaking from a position of no experience and ignorance.
I highly recommend that we get our highly qualified, experienced and loyal employees, who are part of our community, back before they find employment somewhere else.
Paulick is a retired public engineer, a member of the Tooele County Trails Committee, and is chairman of the Utah Board of Water Resources. He is a life-long resident of Tooele County.