Funding for county fairgrounds falteringJust as the ball starts rolling on Stark County fairgrounds construction, officials are questioning who will fund the project.
Just as the ball starts rolling on Stark County fairgrounds construction, officials are questioning who will fund the project.
The Park Board committed $500,000 to the project in February 2008, contingent on development of a specific plan, according to meeting minutes. Revenue from the sale of county land on the northwest edge of Dickinson was also supposed to be committed in part to the fairgrounds, according to the minutes.
The Stark County Commission reportedly recommended those commitments.
“There was a pledge made, but you know, that’s a pledge made by previous commissions and we actually don’t have that kind of money anymore,” said Duane “Bucky” Wolf, County Commission chairman and Park Board member. “They wanted $500,000 and I think we have $200,000 in the budget.”
Wolf was part of the Commission when the money was earmarked.
The Stark County Fair Association, Stark County Park Board and Stark County commissioners are reportedly working on a compromise.
The Fair Board was filling out applications for grants and tax exemptions and turned to the Park Board and County Commission for guidance.
“Both of those applications had questions on them about cash on hand and assets,” said Kurt Froelich, Fair Board chairman. “We were asking for their assistance on how to fill out those applications.”
Froelich said the Fair Board wanted to know if it could claim the pledged funds as assets on their applications.
“The stronger you can make your application look — and that information would help make those applications look stronger — it would probably be viewed more favorably,” Froelich said.
Fair Board members asked county Park Board members in October how they should handle the situation but have not received an answer, Froelich said.
Wolf doesn’t think the Fair Board has shown a strong plan for the project.
“I’ve never seen anything that specifies what the cost of whatever they’re going to do is going to be,” he said.
Wolf, along with the other commissioners and Park Board members, signed a letter of support for the project in July.
Froelich said the Fair Board is still working on pinning down costs. Board members have hired an architect, he added.
He said they distributed plans during a groundbreaking ceremony in July. All commissioners and Park Board members were also mailed a copy, Froelich said.
Because they were promised revenue from land sales, the Fair Board has also asked the Park Board if it can take over sales. They want to try to sell the land faster because it’s reportedly been years since any property was sold.
“We’re going to keep control of that until such a time as we see that they have a strong coalition built with other entities, and that’s kind of where I’m at with it,” Wolf said.
Wolf also wants the Fair Board to work with other county groups. The board has visited with other entities about partnering on certain aspects of the project, but nothing concrete has been established, Froelich said.
Fair Board members have heard a lot of good feedback about the proposed fairgrounds, Froelich said. However, Wolf said he has heard the opposite.
“Very honestly, from public input that I’ve had, I have not had one person tell me that they’re interested in having a fairgrounds,” Wolf said. “I’d like to see a vote of the people and that would give us the direction that we would need then.”
The future of the project is uncertain without the money, Froelich said.
“I think we operated on good-faith efforts,” Froelich said. “It’s a shock to us.”
Wolf said the groups expect to have a comprise next week.