Commissioners narrow plans for fairgrounds


EATON — In two separate meetings last week, Preble County Commissioners discussed renovations for the fairgrounds using funds from an $875,000 state capital improvement grant.

Commissioners met with Kevin Conley of Protective Coatings Inc. during a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, June 8, and PC Fair Board member Mary Bullen spoke during the regular meeting on Wednesday, June 10 regarding what improvements should be made at the fairgrounds.

PCI is the company that is contracted through the state to work with the capital improvement grant at the Preble County Fairgrounds.

Conley told commissioners, “What we would love to walk away with, as soon as possible, is which facilities you want to move forward, not necessary in what order, just ‘these are the buildings we would like to do,’ so we can go ahead and get proposals together and get that process moving.”

Conley said it will take around a month to develop the formal contract between PCI and the state once commissioners give direction of what buildings to move forward with at the fairgrounds.

Commission Clerk Connie Crowell noted during the meeting, the current list commissioners had was from May 14 and provided by PCI, not the Fair Board.

Based on the list provided by PCI, county commissioners chose to move forward with all renovations except painting of the roof and tin on the Rotary Junction, and renovations made to Buildings 24, 25 and 28.

The total proposal provided by the commissioners came in at $763,500. Of the $875,000 grant value, $104,000 will be spent on paving, $7,500 will go to ODOT, and the rest will go to renovations to buildings.

Commissioner Chris Day encouraged the removal of a least one more building to save room in the budget for unexpected cost after the proposal was received. Commissioner Rodney Creech felt that the $250,000 plus estimate for the grandstands could be reduced if needed, in order to save money in the event of unexpected costs.

During Wednesday’s Bullen spoke to the commissioners on her own behalf, noting her disappointment the Fair Board was not notified of the meeting on Monday.

Bullen noted section 1711.31 of the “Red Book,” a term used for the state’s requirements on fair management. The section presented by Bullen read: “When the title to grounds and improvements occupied by an agricultural society is in the board of county commissioners, the control and management of such lands and improvements shall be vested in the board of directors of such society so long as they are occupied by it and used by it for holding agricultural fairs.”

However, Crowell noted a signed agreement form 2010 between the county commissioners and the Preble County Agricultural Society Board President at the time, Joe Kimball, giving commissioners the final say in construction projects at the fairgrounds.

While Bullen said she believed the state agricultural board would overrule the agreement today, county commissioners currently control what renovations and changes are made to the grounds through 2030, according to the agreement signed in 2010.

According to the lease, alterations at the fairgrounds must be approved by the commission as the lessor. “At any time during the term of this Lease, Lessee may, at its sole expense, make interior, exterior and structural alteration and additions to any portion of the Improvements, provided, that (a) Lessor’s prior written consent shall be obtained, which consent shall not be unreasonably withheld,” the agreement notes.

Bullen shared her displeasure on the planned exclusion of electrical work throughout the fairgrounds, and a restroom and shower facility for the EXPO building, saying both of those projects present far greater economic development options at the fairgrounds than making the buildings “look” better.

However, neither item was included on the list being used by PCI that commissioners used to determine which buildings and projects would be included in the grant, according to Crowell, who said the list provided by the fair board should be based on the PCI list.

Both Commissioners Denise Robertson and Creech noted the board of commissioners asked for a list prioritizing what the agricultural board felt was the most important items by June 3, but commissioners have yet to receive the list.

Bullen noted a list had been made but approval of the list was still needed by the fair board, which meets once a month.

Creech said the addition to the Expo Building could be done by applying for another grant in the future saying.

“There are so many ideas out here floating around,” Creech said. “It is our job to get everything together. I do think we have a good chance of getting future dollars, no guarantees, but I think we are in just as much trouble if we don’t fix up the buildings we have today — because if we take that money and spend it and we spend that money on our current buildings, we are going to spend a lot more down the road. From an economic standpoint, I can tell you as a local business owner, if those buildings look good I will pay to have my name on the side of it. I think as far as generating revenues for the fairgrounds, if we give that place a facelift down there we can get small and large local businesses involved and I could see generating $40,000 and $60,000 just by sponsorships on the buildings.”

All together Bullen, Robertson, Creech, Crowell and audience member Jeff Golden spent nearly an hour discussing the renovations at the fairgrounds and the ongoing discussions between commissioners and the agricultural society and fairground works on how the Capital Grant Money should be spent on once the project begins.

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