A meeting between city and county officials regarding joint ownership of the Lincoln County Fairgrounds,originally slated for Monday, has been reset for Thursday evening. No formal action will be taken at that meeting.
During last Tueday’s County Board meeting, Public Property Committee chairman Jeff Hetfeld briefed the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors on the first round of fairgrounds joint-ownership discussion, held recently with City of Merrill officials.
Hetfeld presented the board with the discussion outcome, consisting of the city’s offer to assist the county with building and maintenance costs of a grandstand structure at the fairgrounds, as well as assisting with future operational costs of the fairgrounds.
A provision of the city’s offer is the county’s commitment to building the structure.
Following Hetfeld’s presentation, Merrill Mayor Bill Bialecki was recognized as a guest speaker by board Vice-Chairman Dan Caylor. Chairman Bob Lussow was absent on Tuesday.
In addressing the board, Bialecki presented a draft resolution pertaining to the city’s interest in the future of the fairgrounds.
As Bialecki explained, the resolution was drawn during a closed session of Monday’s special meeting of the Merrill Committee of the Whole.
The resolution declares the city’s recognition of the Lincoln County Fairgrounds being a venue for activities, entertainment and programs for generations for not only the county but the city of Merrill and State of Wisconsin.
The resolution goes on to recognize the matter at hand; of the county board debating whether or not to rebuild a grandstand, which the resolution recognizes as a vital part of fairgrounds operation.
The resolution further itemizes the current position and future vision of the city’s interest in the fairgrounds, stating:
1. The city of Merrill encourages the prompt replacement of the Grandstand on the Fair Grounds Property.
2. Assuming the grandstand will be constructed, the city of Merrill pledges annually; a contribution equal to that budgeted by Lincoln County, for maintenance of the fairgrounds, buildings and property.
3. The city of Merrill would also, if grandstand is constructed, endeavor to use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in the amount of $250,000, to assist in construction of utility improvements, a concession stand, restrooms, and other “TIF” eligible improvements.
4. The city of Merrill will cooperate in the formation of a management entity, implementation of a management plan, and related organizational tools to better manage the Lincoln County Fairgrounds well into the future.
“We convened into closed session to hash this over,” Bialecki explained, after presenting a copy of the draft to board members. “As a result, we came up with this resolution just to show you folks we are acting in good faith here and we are serious about being a part of this.
“It’s your building, so your people will have to decide the final design, but our people would be happy to help you with it,” Bialecki added.
During board discussion, 18th district Supervisor Curtis Powell, along with other supervisors, called for the Public Property Committee to continue negotiation with city officials.
9th District Supervisor Bill Zeitz cited his concerns of potential construction of concessions below the proposed grandstand, referring to legality under state code. Zeitz further encouraged city officials and Public Property Committee members, to further examine the concept.
Caylor agreed with Powell’s recommendation and asked the committee to present discussion results at the board session in May.
During January’s regular meeting, the board voted 15-5 in support of Powell’s recommendation for the Property Committee to enter into meetings with city officials, and legal counsel from both sides, to iron out an agreement and report back to the Board of Supervisors in two months.