The Lincoln County Board has approved the development of a Lincoln County Expo Center Authority to assist in administering and marketing the Lincoln County Fairgrounds. The board voted 19-2 at its September meeting to give its blessing to creation of the new organization.
An amendment to the resolution gives the County Board authority to approve any documents related to the organization’s development.
The resolution comes after more than 18 months of meetings by a volunteer committee called the Fairgrounds Marketing & Usage group. The initial goal of the committee, created at the request of the county’s Public Property Committee, was to increase utilization of the fairgrounds through marketing and promotion. The users group committee brought the concept of an expo authority to the county board last November, but the resolution was laid over at that time. This time the resolution was presented along with an operational guidelines document. The wording of the resolution gives the County Board final approval of the new organization’s operational agreement, by-laws and other documents “that specifically defines how the Authority and the county will collaborate on fairground matters.”
Art Lersch, Lincoln County’s UW-Extension Community Development Agent, has been working with the Fairground Users Group since December 2010. He said the next move will be to develop organizational documents such as by-laws and operating statement to finalize the organization. How that work will be funded is yet to be determined, he said. The Fairgrounds Marketing & Usage group has instructed Lersch to write a grant proposal in support of developing organizational documents.
“I think the user groups feel this is a step in the right direction,” Lersch said. “This is something they’ve been looking for, for quite a while.”
Current plans call for the county to retain ownership of the fairgrounds property. The county board will still have the final say in policy decisions related to the fairgrounds, Lersch noted.
Participation on the Fairgrounds Users Group has come from the Lincoln County Fair Association, Lincoln County 4-H Leaders Association, Merrill Riders Club, Lincoln County Rodeo Committee, county board supervisors and members of the public.
Replacement of the grandstand is the most immediate issue related to the fairgrounds. Agra Industries of Merrill has offered its assistance in that project. So far, the company has provided drawings for a proposed new arena structure. The extent of Agra’s contribution to the project has not yet been decided, nor have cost estimates been tallied, said Bill Zeitz, chair of the Public Property Committee.
“Agra has done plans for a structure, which shows they’re committed in some way,” Zeitz said.
The former grandstand was razed this summer after it was damaged in a storm. The county has not received an insurance settlement yet. The storm caused damage to other county property, which will all be submitted to the insurance company as one claim, Zeitz explained.
When the Fairgrounds Marketing & Usage group was first established, the grandstand was not an immediate concern.
“The goal was increase use of the fairgrounds,” Zeitz said. “The initial concern was to build a new bathroom, and all of a sudden we had that storm.”
Lincoln County won’t be reinventing the wheel in terms of fairground management, Zeitz noted. For example, the Shawano County Agriculture Society leases that county’s fairgrounds for $1 a year and provides similar services to those being proposed for the Lincoln County Expo Center Authority.