COVID-19 has delayed activity on the relocation plans for the Yuma County Fairgrounds, officials said.
Some funding to begin the process of moving the fairgrounds away from the Marine Corps Air Station - Yuma appeared to be close to being delivered to Yuma County, and the process was expected to begin in July, until the county started responding to the spread of coronavirus in March.
Paul Melcher, Yuma County Director of Economic Development and Intergovernmental Affairs, said that when the coronavirus response began, the county was in a position to buy land for the temporary relocation in July.
A $5 million allocation from the state was near a final vote in the Arizona Legislature in the early weeks of March, and county staff met with staff in Washington D.C. in early March, who told them that multiple federal allocations and grants could fund the project.
Supervisor Lynne Pancrazi, who has been working closely with stakeholders and attending meetings on the subject, said that she and everyone involved was very excited at that time because a significant step in the project was about to be made.
“We were looking at $5 million from the state and the possibility of matching that with federal grants,” she said. “We were looking forward to really making a dent in what we needed to do. We were already looking at (permanent) relocation property by then.”
Pancrazi said that tax revenue across all levels of government is expected to decline because of the toll the coronavirus is exacting from businesses, and she said she expects this to contribute to the delay and limitations that the county will have in getting the project going again.
“There’s going to be a lot of tightening the belt, and I don’t know how that’s going to affect what we put into this,” she said. “I’m expecting less money will be going towards it. Right now, everyone is focused on surviving the coronavirus, and things like moving the fairgrounds will probably lose from that.”
Pancrazi said that the project isn’t done and will definitely still happen. However, she and Melcher had no idea the extent of the delay that the project faces.
The state legislature is currently scheduled to begin operating again in August, but that date is tentative. Melcher said a lot of the grant sources are still in place at the federal level, but the application process on the county’s part has more limitations because the county doesn’t know how much it will be able to put forward as a match.
Most of the federal sources of funding would have come from allocations and grants for military projects. Federal money was expected to come from the Defense Critical Infrastructure Program, the Innovative Readiness Training program and Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration challenge, all of which would bring in money through the Department of Defense.
Melcher said that some of those programs would have allowed them to use the Marines as a source of equipment and labor, mostly for construction, if the county could provide the supplies.
The county has to move the fairgrounds because of concerns that the property’s proximity to MCAS-Yuma puts it at risk in the case of an accident.