- Associated Press - Monday, March 14, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - A spending plan from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner outlines a $180 million backlog in repairs and maintenance for the state fairgrounds in Springfield and Du Quoin.

If the backlog is allowed to go on, it will make it more and more difficult for the facilities to compete to host major events, according to the governor’s plan, which was outlined last month.

More than a dozen roofs at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield are in need of repair or replacement, the State Journal-Register (https://bit.ly/1U0VijR ) reported. The fairgrounds also need an update to its above-ground electrical system and repairs on roads covered with potholes.

The Du Quoin fairgrounds need grandstand repairs, roof replacements, a fire-alarm system and life-safety improvements.

Illinois lawmakers haven’t yet agreed on a way to pay for the work.

“We have to come up with a new capital plan. I don’t know what form that’s going to take yet. I haven’t seen any real proposals,” state Rep. Tim Butler said last week during a tour of the Springfield fairgrounds with representatives of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

In 2015, Butler sponsored legislation that would establish a private foundation to raise money for fairground operations and maintenance, an effort that’s similar to the Rauner administration’s strategy to raise funds for the Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield.

The $180 million figure is based on an analysis of short- and long-term maintenance and repair needs at both fairgrounds, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

Some buildings at the Springfield and Du Quoin fairgrounds haven’t been updated for more than two decades. At least one barn at the Springfield fairgrounds has been slated for demolition, and temporary repairs have only added to the long-term cost, according to the report.

“Conditions like this, coupled with other inadequacies, may cause the facilities for both state fairs to become noncompetitive and create less revenue for the state,” the governor’s budget proposal said.

In 2008, the failure of an underground electrical system forced the Illinois State Fairgrounds to be shut down for more than two months, prompting the relocation or cancellation of about 70 events, including the Illinois Beef Expo, The Boat Show, and The Springfield RV and Camping Show.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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