- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - State Fair officials who briefed Arizona legislators recently on building improvement plans didn’t disclose a plan to demolish an historic building, and some lawmakers aren’t happy about it.

Fair officials had planned to have the Civic Building that was built in 1938 razed because of leaks, cracking and other problems, but the planned demolition last week is temporarily on hold because of a legal challenge mounted by preservation advocates. A court hearing is scheduled Wednesday.

Fair officials on June 19 briefed a legislative oversight committee on facilities plans that include paving the building site and additional property, the Arizona Republic (https://bit.ly/1zXwe0K ) reported.

Legislators said the demolition should have been included in the presentation.

“They didn’t break the law, but … the spirit of the law was trashed,” said Rep. John Kavanagh, who chairs a House-Senate oversight committee as well as the House Appropriations Committee.

A fair official said the $80,000 demolition didn’t have to be included in the presentation because the demolition is a separate project with a cost below the $250,000 threshold requiring submission to the oversight committee.

Kristi Walsh, assistant executive director, said legislative budget analysts told fair officials that fair officials didn’t need to get the committee’s approval for demolition.

“We thought we were following the proper procedure,” Walsh said. “We did what we were told. I don’t know what else we could have done better.”

Walsh also said the demolition plans weren’t mentioned during the presentation because the paving project would cover a much larger area than the building site.

Rep. Lela Alston, D-Phoenix, had accused fair officials of misleading legislators and moving to demolish the building with “little stakeholder involvement or even community notification.”

Walsh said the State Fair is committed to preserving other historic structures on its property but has determined it’s not economical to save the Civic Building, which has a badly leaking roof, termite damage and a cracking foundation.

It would cost an estimated $1 million to make the building usable again, Walsh said. “The bottom line for us is we don’t have the funding to put into the building.”

The Art Deco-style building has been used as offices, a haunted house and for a mineral and gem exhibit.

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