No news on Union County Fairgrounds

Posted August 9, 2017 at 3:58 pm

By Julie Ann Madden

It’s been two months since Union County officials met with Farmers Cooperative Society personnel and Alcester city officials regarding the county’s fairgrounds.

“The city is pro 4-H and fair,” said Union County States Attorney Jerry Miller in an interview April 6 after county officials met with Alcester city officials and Coop representatives and reported their findings to the commissioners. “The Coop is pro 4-H and fair. The Commissioners are pro 4-H and fair.”

Noting 4-H and the fair are synonymous, “Nobody wants to say the fair is in the way,” he said, “but the fact of the matter is it is.”

The Farmers Cooperative Society wants to expand their holdings to the east but the Union County Fair Board has a 99-year lease on the property to the east of the Coop property.

“(The Coop) wants to build these in-going and outgoing scales with a scale house and office on what’s called East Clark Street (in the path of the fairgrounds’ rabbit barn and Lions Club building),” said Miller. “But we also found out that it appears on a different map that this area was sold to the railroad. Therefore, the railroad owns to East Clark Street and has a lease to the south edge of East Clark Street.”

The Fair Board has secured a lease from the railroad to the fair,” he said.

“Then as I understand it, (Alcester officials) came in and built up the road that is partially on railroad property and partially on their property,” said Miller. “That throws another kink in the plan to do an in-and-out scale — Alcester doesn’t own the land.”

The county’s “box” in the roadway, which runs along the eastern edge of the Coop property, is not as important anymore to Alcester or the Coop because they are moving a bin and downsizing it from 1 million bushels to 750,000 bushels, he said. “They don’t need a variance or easement for this little 150 feet section (of road).”

At the April 4 commissioners’ meeting, Miller, Fair Board Manager Janet Lingle and Commissioner Michael Daily told the other commissioners, “In the years to come there is a desire or future plan for a 150 feet long flat commodity storage building to hold 3 million bushels where the Coop typically stores grain.”

All the Alcester-owned property (on the fairgrounds) would be used by the Coop basically,” said Miller, who had told Coop and Alcester officials to put everything out on the table when they met so commissioners and county officials can make plans.

Lingle indicated she’d like to see the fair grow, he said, explaining the Coop’s expansive improvements really aren’t conducive for the fair growing and in years to come the Coop is looking to expand farther into the fairgrounds.

Lingle would like the fair to have unlimited, unrestricted access to about 10 acres in order to expand the fair in the future,” said Miller. “There’s no time frame set.”

Commissioner Daily reported Alcester officials would like to have a triple win here — to have the Coop grow, have their tax base grow and keep the fair there and keep everybody happy,” Miller told The Akron Hometowner.

The consensus of the commissioners, Lingle and the Fair Board is the growth of the Coop will eventually shrink or push the fair out, said Miller. “That’s nobody’s fault. It’s just business progress and growth.”

““Everybody’s pretty much pro 4-H and Fair,” said Miller. “That’s it pretty much in a nutshell.”

After the three parties met, Miller reported this to Commission Chairperson Milt Ustad.

Milt added another piece to the puzzle. He’d been at a district meeting of county officials, sharing the fairgrounds’ issues with a Lincoln County commissioner.

That commissioner suggested Union County officials consider merging the Union County Fair with their Achievement Days and selecting a site centrally located for the two counties. It was noted Beresford may have some property right along Interstate 29 that abuts their model airplane field and skeet shooting range that would tie in nicely to a fairgrounds, said Miller. “If such an agreement could be reached between Beresford and the two counties…that was just a conversation between two commissioners. There’s no hard plans.”

“We’re waiting to hear from the Coop and Alcester as to East Clark Street and their two-scale project,” he said. “If they still want to do it, they will have to work with the railroad and Fair Board because of our lease with the railroad.”

“Farmer’s Coop said they’re willing to work with us,” said Miller. “They want to have a great relationship with the fair so I’m sure we’re going to have a good working relationship with them and the City of Alcester but as far as the fairgrounds, I have no idea.”

“That’s going to be a Commission decision,” he said.

“Growth is not a bad thing,” said Miller. “It’s just unfortunate right now it seems the fair is in the way of that growth.”

In the meantime,

• Commissioners decided not to bid on purchasing a property adjacent to the fairgrounds.

“They felt it wasn’t enough land and would put a road smack dab in the middle of the fairgrounds,” said Miller.

• Commissioner Kevin Joffer, who represents the district where the fairgrounds are, toured the fairgrounds with Lingle.

At the June 6 Commission meeting, Lingle and he reported several buildings needed repair immediately. There were problems with the rabbit barn and main exhibit building needing immediate repairs.

The commissioners discussed waiting to do the repairs so money wouldn’t be wasted if the fairgrounds were moved in the future.

Commission’s

July 25 Meeting

With bids collected for major repairs on several of the fairground’s buildings, Commissioners gave Lingle permission to authorize work to begin as soon as the fair ends July 30.

However, the actual approval of the bids will be made by commissioners at their Aug. 1 meeting.

At this meeting, Lingle presented the commission with new photographs of part of the rabbit barn’s ceiling falling down on top of rabbit cages prepared for exhibitors’ animals.

Temporary repairs will need to be made, which include placing plywood on the ceiling to prevent more of the roof from falling down.

Immediate repairs also needed included plumbing repairs in restrooms. The mold issues will remain until the roofs of affected buildings can be fixed.

Several commissioners were displeased that the buildings would not be repaired by the Union County Fair, which runs July 27 – 29.

All of the repairs, estimated costing about $60,000, were placed in the FY 2018 Budget but with a large amount of county Contingency dollars left in FY 2017, it was decided to make all repairs this year. No official action was taken to do so — just a commissioners’ consensus to move forward.

Aug. 1 Meeting

In Lingle’s “After Fair” report, she informed the commission of additional repairs needed.

Headid made a motion to accept the bid by Iron Clad Construction to do the fairground buildings’ repairs plus the new repairs she’d brought to them at this meeting. Joffer seconded it and the vote was unanimous, 5-0.

The work was to begin immediately.

Lingle also reported that many fair-goers had stated this was the last year for the fair to be held at Alcester but at this time that is not true.

No more meetings have been held with the Farmers Coop Society representatives nor Alcester city officials.

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