Ther To Lincoln County Administrator, Chairman and Supervisors:
The 2013 Lincoln County Fair took place the week of July 17-21. Over the course of the week, the Lincoln County Fair Association heard many comments about this year’s fair and the grounds it is held on. Comments about the fair, be it about the carnival, entertainment, or vendors are things we can change or attempt to fix. We will be looking at and discussing these comments and concerns over the next couple of months. Any comments made about the grounds to association members, were answered simply, to call their county board supervisor. When told that, most people replied that they haven’t a clue as to whom their supervisor is, or “You mean the fair board doesn’t own the grounds?”
The responses that were addressed back to the association members usually fell into two major categories: 1. “The county board should be ashamed of themselves” or “don’t they have any pride?” 2. A lot of swear words (some of them put together in combinations we haven’t heard before).
As volunteers, we put in countless hours of planning over the course of the year to provide our community with the best fair we can. We want this to be an enjoyable, fun, learning experience for our youth, our exhibitors, and the general public. We do our best with the facilities that we have to work with. But after this year’s fair, we felt it important to let the supervisors of the county board hear the comments we heard throughout the week. We took the liberty to clean up some of the language in the comments.
This place is a dump
What a *#&^ hole
How can you put on a fair with those bathrooms?
Fix the bathrooms
I’m not coming back until you have new bathroom facilities, you should be ashamed
You people ever hear of new blacktop?
Can’t walk around here with all the holes
My mother fell; fix the d__n midway.
Are you going to wait till the barns fall down? Why don’t you fix it, buy some d__n shingles and a few gallons of paint.
What’s wrong with you people, don’t you have any pride?
The electrical in the barn needs to be upgraded, what are you waiting for?
The barn quilts look so nice, it makes the rest of the barn look like manure.
We need more exhibit space.
How long do we have to be in a tent?
Why don’t you maintain anything on the fairgrounds? Are you waiting for it to fall down like the grandstand? Maybe you should have taken better care of that. Then you wouldn’t be in this situation.
We also heard many comments on the Expo Center/Grandstand debate. We would have to say, of the people that talked to us, 2/3 of them were in favor of the Expo Center. The majority of the people asked for more information or to have it explained. After talking to them they said this makes sense, why is all the misinformation being circulated? Everyone we talked with said “you have to do something.”
As we stated before, we work all year as volunteers to put on the best fair possible. To be bombarded with such negativity and abuse about the grounds where we hold this event is, at the least, very frustrating. As an organization, we were asked to participate in a fairground user group over two years ago. We at that time felt that it was a great idea. We needed better communication, cooperation and a better working relationship with the county board. Over the course of this time, we have sent representatives to these meetings religiously; never missing a meeting; because we believed in improving these relationships. We believed in improving these grounds, and we believed in making Lincoln County a better place to live and visit. Working together, this could be the case.
Over the course of time, many of us have attended county board meetings, committee meetings, or both. To say that Democracy works in strange ways in Lincoln County is an understatement! We have left most of those meetings shocked, appalled and frustrated. Sometimes wondering what just happened?!? Where this leaves us now is in somewhat of a quandary.
What you do with Lincoln County properties is the board’s decision. We would like to think that these working conditions can improve, and we can move forward. We can tell you that the Lincoln County Fair, as you know it, is being put in some pretty rough waters if we want to keep working with these facilities without an improvement plan.
Thank you for your time,
The Lincoln County Fair Association
Letter to the Editor:
What is on the table with replacing the grandstand with a like structure in the same place or replacing it with a completely new concept expo center or maybe something else?
First, it needs to be understood that the county is under great financial pressure because the state has frozen property taxes by imposing increasingly strict levy limits. All other levels of local government are under the same pressure and mandates. To comply, the county has instructed all departments to prepare a “no increase budget for 2014.” That means all departments must absorb a significant 10% increase in employee health insurance premiums and all other increases in operating costs. All existing county programs are being squeezed and new programs are generally off the table – we are talking about law enforcement, courts, county roads, Health and Social Services, Pine Crest, veterans services, etc.
Fairgrounds maintenance has annually received $25,000 in property taxes and additionally received $16,000 to replace the roof on the Schultz Building in 2013. In 2014, the county is again budgeting $25,000 for maintenance and there is an additional request for $17,000 to paint cattle barns, under order by the city of Merrill to be painted.
Proceeds from the insurance settlement – for the loss of the old grandstand – are just under $1.3 million. Expo Center costs go all over the place up to $6 million with promises of a revenue stream. A County Board resolution authorizing $120,000 for Expo Center architect’s fees did not pass. A resolution authorizing acceptance of a low bid for a new grandstand of like size in the same place will be reconsidered at the November County Board meeting. The low bid is just under $1 million with additional alternates, all of which come in within the settlement of $1.3 million. The low bid was for 150 days and will expire shortly after the November meeting.
These are a few of the pertinent facts under consideration which I have tried to present in an unbiased manner.