Report on State Fair collapse remains on hold


The investigation into the State Fair tragedy will cost more this year than originally expected. We'll also have to wait longer for details on what needs to change to protect future fairgoers.

"Writing a bill right now is quite difficult, because we don't know. We just don't know," said Indiana State Senator Jim Merritt, who also sits on the State Fair Commission.

As Merritt heads back to the Statehouse for the upcoming legislative session, he won't be taking on laws dealing with the state's preparedness or response. The release of the preliminary report surrounding the August 13 stage collapse is being withheld.

"Obviously, we all want to know what went on that night and patience is growing thin," Merritt told 13 Investigates.

Just days ago, Governor Mitch Daniels spoke publicly, saying he would prefer a sooner release of the report Witt & Associates completed on the State Fair's preparedness and response.

But investigators want to hold it until the structural investigation is done.

"I'm going to go back and ask if that's really necessary, because I do think it would be good for all of us, the public and all of us, to begin to get some sense of what was not done well," the governor told reporters Monday.

"I think we need to be patient. As soon as we start getting indications from a Witt report, I agree with the governor that we need to act as soon as we can," said Merritt, trying to measure the concerns of both sides.

But for now, that report won't be made public until Thornton Tomasetti completes its investigation, which could go well into the spring. The State Fair Commission now also reveals its collapse investigation, estimated at $975,000 this year, is over budget.

"We do expect the cost of the collapse to cost a little bit more in 2011. That's not the overall cost, but that's just what's going to hit in 2011," explained the Commission's Financial Officer, David Ellis.

New financial records show $956,000 has already been paid.

With three weeks until the end of the year, the commission now estimates it will spend $300,000 more, pushing the four month total since the tragedy up to $1.27 million. That amount includes $1 million for contracts, $90,000 for professional services and $55,000 for equipment rental.

"We have to spend the money to get the answers," said Merritt. "You can't worry about cost when you're getting to the truth."

Thursday's was the commission's last meeting of the year. Members were not given any updates on either investigation. Merritt also says he has yet to speak with the governor about concerns over withholding the Witt report for months into the new year.