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Stark County Fair Board offers $300K in start-up funding to establish fairground

The Stark County Park Board agreed to provide $300,000 in start-up money to establish a fairground with land south of Dickinson that was donated to the Dickinson State University Foundation.

The funds will also help with other costs, including the purchase of another five acres from the donor that was not part of the gift.

Kevin Thompson, CEO of DSU Foundation, explained at the Stark County Commission meeting Tuesday at the courthouse in Dickinson that the foundation was approached by a potential donor last September about a 55-acre property that is two miles south of Dickinson.

"Basically, in December, the donor and myself have come to a verbal understanding as to how everything would work, contingent upon appraisal of the property," he said. "What we are talking about is 55 acres of land located about two miles south of Dickinson that is in the county. We would need to work with the county to rezone the property."

The only no vote for the motion came from Frank Klein, co-chair of both the Stark County Fair Association and Stark County Park Board.

"I don't have any particular objection to this, other than to remind the board that this is $300,000 and that property over there is free," Klein said in reference to property on the west side of Dickinson near the site of the new hospital that had been considered as a potential fairgrounds site.

County Commissioner Jay Elkin reminded Klein that the county and other entities are trying to work together to bring a fairground to the county, and the option of this land purchase appears to have support from other entities.

In January, Thompson said a group of people, including the park board, commission, Roughrider Commission, fair board, DSU Alumni and Foundation, DSU and attorney Sandra Kuntz, began meeting and discussing land options for a potential fairgrounds.

"The group, as a whole, feels the property to the south is better from a zoning area and use area," Thompson said. "The DSU Foundation is working with the donor, who would give the property to us through a differed gift annuity, which would require a payment over a 20-year period, which is backed by the DSU Foundation.

"There are five acres amongst this property that is not a part of the gift annuity, that is owned by the children in the family and they would like to have that land purchased from them. What we did was appraise the property and used $25,000 an acre as the cost for the property, which is currently zoned agricultural."

There will be a one-year agreement between the entities that can be renewed annually, Thompson said.

Groups including the Roughrider Commission, Stark County Fair Board, Stark County Commission, DSU, DSU Foundation, and possibly the city of Dickinson, the Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Stark County Development Corporation, must sign the agreement in order for the plan to go forward.

If the plan does not advance, the money the county puts up would be returned.

"The foundation board did approve the differed gift annuity and made a proposal to the donor. The five acres of land is what would need to be purchased," Thompson said. "I proposed the park board work with the DSU Foundation to appropriate approximately $300,000 to help purchase the land and give some of the seed dollars to help with the planning."