RICKREALL -- Most of the numbers have come in from this year's
Polk County Fair and the news is not good. Unless the budget is
drastically cut, the fair will need another bailout this fiscal
year of about $50,000. That's higher than last year's general
fund transfer of $46,000.
"We're going to look at what we can do to reduce the amount," Ray
Steele, fair board chairman said.
"You can't," was Greg Hansen's blunt reply to the fair board at
their Sept. 21 meeting.
Hansen suggested several ways the fair could cut costs and the
board revised this year's fee schedule to bring in more revenue.
To date, the annual fair revenues are short by more than $31,000
and expenses exceed the budgeted amount by about $23,000.
"We can pull out the maintenance position that's costing you
$39,400 a year but you'll still have to hire someone to replace
him." That might save the fair about $13,000, Hansen said. An
additional $10,000 might be able to be shaved from the amount
spent on repairs and maintenance, Hansen said.
"You need us to do maintenance for you but you can't afford it,"
Hansen said. This didn't surprise the fair board members. They've
been saying that since July.
The county took over the fair's maintenance budget more than a
year ago after the fairgrounds fell into such disrepair that
conditions had become unsafe. Over the years, maintenance had
been delayed to pay for more pressing needs. The county dipped
into its insurance fund and spent almost $185,000 for new roofs,
septic tanks, guttering, and exhaust hoods over the stoves. It
expects to spend an additional $168,000 before all the major
repairs are complete.
In exchange for the county's generosity, the fair board gave up
their maintenance budget and added a full time maintenance
position at the fairgrounds, paid for utilities, operating
supplies and paid for the supplies needed for repairs and
maintenance. The county charged the fair for these items in the
form of rent, $96,000 last year. This year the rent was raised to
$104,000. The county insisted on this arrangement to insure the
continued maintenance of the fairgrounds so the facility would
not deteriorate as it had in the past because of budget deficits.
The fair board told Hansen they still want to see the findings of
a committee they appointed at the last work session between the
fair board and the county commissioners. The five-member
committee, comprised of Commissioner Ron Dodge, Bob Prock,
maintenance supervisor, Fair Manager Tina Andersen, fair board
member Nita Wilson and Hansen, is charged with defining
maintenance duties at the fairgrounds.
The fair board wants to see just how much time the county puts in
at the fairgrounds on maintenance projects the fair board might
want to curtail in light of their financial difficulties.
Not everyone thinks it's a good idea to let the fair do its own
"Who would bear the liability if things are not up to code and
there's an accident?" Phil Walker asked at the joint board work
session Sept. 19. Walker is a member of the county budget
committee which makes recommendations to the Board of County
Commissioners on how to allocate the county's yearly revenues.
"The county would bear the liability," responded County Counsel
At the work session, Commissioner Mike Propes proposed increasing
the county's annual subsidy to the fairgrounds by $20,000 for two
years and then asking the voters to pass a tax levy in the 2002
November election. That extra subsidy, which would have to be
approved by the budget committee, would bring the county's annual
contribution up to $44,500.
"I'm convinced now that we can't keep a fair in the county that
makes enough money to support itself. You might be able to break
even with the year-round fair operations but not on the annual
fair," Propes said.
He suggested the fair board might want to team up with another
fair in order to share the burden. Propes remembered that Yamhill
County had once suggested that possibility to this county as they
have similar problems making a profit.
Commissioner Ron Dodge questioned Fair Manager Tina Andersen
about the amount of overtime charged to the annual fair. Andersen
said she didn't understand why the figure was more than $5,000
because she thought the overtime problem had been solved by
adjusting the work week during the annual fair. Hansen said the
county has a set work week and he didn't think it could be
adjusted to avoid paying overtime but he promised to check on it.
The fair was charged $10,000 for bleachers this year that the
fair board thought had already been paid. Hansen explained the
bleachers could not be charged to the fair last year because they
were not delivered until after July 1.
"If they had been charged against last year's budget you would
have been short an additional $10,000 last year," Hansen said.
? The fair board has scheduled a joint meeting with the
commissioners for Oct. 9 at 1:30 p.m. in the commissioners
conference room. The two boards are expected to discuss whether
to continue using county personnel for routine maintenance at the
fairgrounds. The next regular meeting of the fair board is
Thursday, Oct. 19, at the fairgrounds at 10 a.m.
Every year, the Board of County Commissioners adopts a fee
schedule for all county departments but this year they adopted
all the fees except those charged at the fairgrounds.
"We wanted to give them a little more time to consider their fees
in light of their current financial problems," Commission
Chairman Tom Ritchey said.
Most of the fees at the fairgrounds are in line with competing
facilities, Fair Manager Tina Andersen said but a few of them are
"We're selling ourselves short," Curt Lamb, fair board member,
said, referring to the $350 to $450 the fair charges to rent the
main building per day. Renting the main building includes the use
of the kitchen and the lower amount is charged to groups who use
the space before or after 6 p.m.
Andersen said the main building fees should not be raised but she
thought the rental fees for the main room were too low. The board
voted to raise the fees from $200 and $275 to $300 and $375. They
also decided to increase the fees for rental of the Arts and
Crafts building by $50 and made some minor changes to a few other
The fair board eliminated the fee to rent the entire grounds as
that is not possible with the RV parking and the parking lot used
by the museum. The same organization could still rent all of the
facilities on the same day but they would pay for each area