Plans for a Stark County fairgrounds remain at a standstill.
More than a year ago, the Stark County Fair Association gave the Dickinson State University Foundation $300,000 as startup money to plan the project. That was a big step after 25 years of failed attempts to secure land and other hang-ups on the project. Another victory came in March, when the Stark County Park Board approved spending $1.7 million for an 87-acre plot of land two-and-a-half miles south of Dickinson.
But nothing’s been built there yet.
Since getting the startup funds, the Foundation spearheaded plans to form a limited liability corporation to manage the project. But in late April, plans to form an LLC with representatives from the park board, fair association, county, Roughrider Commission and the DSU Foundation halted when the Stark County state’s attorney questioned the legality of a public entity in an LLC.
Since then, little has happened.
Fair association member Frank Klein said those involved in the project were hoping to start moving dirt this summer, but instead will suffer more delays and shoot for getting organized in time to bid for contractors over the winter.
More than $200,000 of the $300,000 allocated to the DSU Foundation has been spent on research into the feasibility and engineering of the project.
Klein criticized the decision to give the Foundation that money, and was the sole vote against it.
“(Foundation CEO Kevin Thompson) comes in there and gives us this razzle-dazzle thing and we hand him $300,000,” he said.
When the LLC was questioned in April, fair association chairwoman Lee Ann Karsky suggested going back to the original plan: for her association to be the head with representatives from interested parties having a seat on the group. All involved groups were already represented on the association, except the Foundation.
Fair association lawyer Sandy Kuntz also raised concerns about the LLC, saying at the April meeting that it’s duplicative of the fair association and “wasting off a lot of resources.”
Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning and Foundation lawyer Paul Ebeltoft both said Thursday they don’t have any updates on the project or LLC.
Ebeltoft said he couldn’t comment further.
“The Foundation is my client and I’m certainly not going to reveal any kind of discussions I’ve had with them,” he said.
Henning said “other business has taken precedence over” sorting out the LLC’s legality.
Klein was more blunt.
“I think the LLC has gone south,” he said.
The plans drawn up in the Foundation’s research include an indoor facility and outdoor arena. DSU was a part of the supposed-LLC but in April withdrew its involvement, saying instead it would rent facilities for its rodeo team if rates were reasonable.
Lymn is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1211. Tweet her at kathlymn.