Fair association, county commissioners square offStark County Fair Association members maintain they have the clout to move Dickinson’s fairgrounds where they see fit, but county commissioners believe the public should have a say in the matter.
Stark County Fair Association members maintain they have the clout to move Dickinson’s fairgrounds where they see fit, but county commissioners believe the public should have a say in the matter.
SCFA members Bernie Marsh and Frank Klein informed commissioners last week of the association’s interest in swapping the fairgrounds in south Dickinson with land owned by one of multiple interested developers.
The SCFA has been trying to construct a fairgrounds and multipurpose complex for years, but the project has endured numerous setbacks.
Marsh said he is not required to inform commissioners of the association’s interest in trading land, but he does not want business proceedings done “behind the tables.”
“I knew that I didn’t have to come here, but I wanted to come here just to be upfront,” Marsh said.
Commissioners were hesitant to give the SCFA full reign.
The public should decide what happens, commission chairman Ken Zander said during the March 6 Stark County Commission meeting.
“I am absolutely opposed to any kind of swap or sale that doesn’t involve a bid process,” he said.
Commissioner Russ Hoff agrees, adding that SCFA members are treading dangerous territory because the county commission has given money to the SCFA.
"In the last five years, the county has probably given $500,000," Hoff said. “You sure as heck don’t want to slap the hand that feeds you."
Klein is not against public opinion, but he said commissioners cannot make the SCFA do so.
“We can exchange land for other land. We got the authority to do that,” said Klein, who would like to see fairgrounds between Dickinson and South Heart.
Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning said Klein is right, but the SCFA does not have to remind commissioners of its capabilities.
“You don’t have to practice law in front of (the commissioners),” Henning said.
In February, Five Diamond Fund Managers LLC, a Utah-based company, contacted the SCFA with a non-binding letter of intent to acquire a new fairgrounds site to be swapped with the existing site.
Some commissioners are worried moving the fairgrounds site goes against the county’s original intensions.
“When we deeded this property to the fair board, it was done with the idea that this would be for recreation or for public use,” Commissioner Duane “Bucky” Wolf said.
Marsh said times have changed, and city leaders would rather see the fairgrounds site used in other ways.
“I visited with the city planner and the city administrator, and they would definitely be for us moving the location,” he said. “They can have (the fairgrounds site) developed and get tax money off of it.”
Zander is not convinced swapping property is the best route, and thinks the SCFA is overstepping its bounds.
“Can we dissolve the fair board?” he asked.
Henning said ditching the board is not an option.
“In order to dissolve a fair board, you have to show that they have not been doing anything that would be considered fair activities.”