This week’s featured question is for City Administrator Dave Johnson.
The question reads:
“In the paper last week you talked about expenses and money the city invests in the festival grounds and the projects going on there. How much do these expenses amount to for the city all in all? And if the city isn’t able to find a way to make some of that back what will happen t o the grounds? Will it become just another crumbling lot like it was before when the county let it rot away? I hope not, this is scary.”
Answer given by Johnson:
“The City of Merrill took over the former fairgrounds for two reasons, first to provide an entertainment venue where we could continue to have the Fair, the Rodeo, the Labor Day Car Show, 4H Horse Show, and hopefully other events; second, to provide the opportunity for local civic groups to continue to raise funds to support their local programs. In 2016, we added the Tractor Pull and are seeking other events. The Tractor Pull was funded predominantly by River Valley Bank, with equipment from Swiderski Implement, Caterpillar, and Pioneer Transportation being donated for our use. The grounds are also used by the Merrill Riders Club, by the 4H for dog training, and for the Relay For Life.
“The new grandstand was paid for from the insurance settlement from the old grandstand, the new rodeo arena was paid for by the Rodeo Association, the new windows in the cattle pavilion were donated by Lincoln Wood and installed by Mark Raymer at no cost. the cattle pavilion painting was done with a grant from Sierra Pacific, the two grandstand ticket booths were donated by AmericInn and Pine Ridge Restaurant, and the north restroom was power washed/stripped by me on my own time and painted by the Mayor and his son-in-law. Thus far we have more than $1,250,000 in funds donated for the Enrichment Center/Expo Hall and are continuing our fund raising efforts. So as you can see, we have been successful in attracting contributions, as well as it being demonstrated that the community is behind our efforts.
“The City has paid to demolish the old east restroom, build the clay base under the rodeo arena and tractor pull track, install some new lighting, install a new sound system, and pay a contractor to cut the grass all season. We also winterized the buildings that use water. In 2017, we budgeted funds to re-wire the cattle pavilion and will be doing some paved parking around the Enrichment Center/Expo Hall. In 2018, we will be looking at doing a new restroom.
“It was stated up front that the City did not expect to make a profit or break even on the Festival Grounds, the best we can achieve is to minimize the amount that we subsidize the facility. The Festival Grounds is not different than our parks or the library, they are all beneficial amenities in this community and contribute to the quality of life in our community but they don’t make money, they have to be subsidized. We are not going to allow the Festival Grounds to deteriorate as it did when it was the Fairgrounds.”
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