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Judging stand

Published March 30. 2011 05:01PM

It's possibly one of the oldest horse racing stands in America, but preserving it appears not to be an option.

This week, Lehighton Borough Council said it will either raze the bulky, wooden structure that now stands as an eyesore in the town's Community Grove or give it away if some valid group or organization wants to pay for removal.

The old stand was used at the former Carbon County Fair in Lehighton for more than 100 years. It stood in front of the fair's grandstand for the exposition's final run in 1993.

It was utilized for horse racing that was a staple at the fair. It also was great for band competitions at the fair, demolition derbies, and many other events.

Members of Lehighton Borough Council tried their best to save a piece of not only the fair's history, but a very unique structure.

Officials of the borough moved the stand from its original location at the fairgrounds to a parking lot of a car dealership, and then to the Community Grove. The intention was to renovate the stand and move it to the Lehighton Borough Park where not only would it be an attraction, but it could be utilized for some community events. Most importantly, they would have been preserving a piece of history.

A grant for the rejuvenation of the stand was received in the amount of $20,000. When bids for refurbishing were sought, only one was received and the amount was $115,000.

This would have presented an enormous burden on the borough's taxpayers. The timing for such an expenditure would have been poor since the borough council is operating on a tight budget.

For some council members it was hard to recommend the demolition of this artifact. Some council members served for years on the board of directors of the fair so there is some sentimental value involved. But common sense prevailed.

Not only would the repairs exceed $100,000, but there would be a monumental task to move the stand to a downtown location. The move would have meant taking down overhead electric lines and then reinstalling them.

It's important to preserve our history, but only when costs and efforts to justify such preservation are logical. There comes a time when you have to walk away from a project, even when history is involved.

Council member John Bird said so much work for the judging stand was needed that it wouldn't have been a renovation. It would have been a reconstruction. He's right.

If someone wants the stand, the council must be notified by April 31 and it must be moved by the end of May. Otherwise, it's going to be demolished.

The council made the right decision, prioritizing what's best for the taxpayers.

By Ron Gower

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