County board waiting on nonprofit to crunch numbers

GREENFIELD — The Hancock County Board of Commissioners has yet to take action on a land lease for the proposed new fairgrounds nearly a month and a half after it was first introduced.

Members are waiting for the nonprofit board overseeing the project to crunch numbers and provide details about costs and funding for the project that’s estimated to exceed $30 million.

In August, the Hancock County Exposition Complex Corp., the group overseeing the project, presented the commissioners with a land lease for county-owned farmland along U.S. 40 and a strategic plan outlining the vision for the project and project phases.

It didn’t include details regarding construction costs or how the project would be paid for, commissioners said.

Earlier this month, the commissioners invited the public to speak about the project, and after nearly 2½ hours of debate the members tabled the discussion.

Before moving forward, they asked representatives of the nonprofit to identify how much each phase of the project would cost. They said they wouldn’t sign the lease until they know what it would cost to construct enough of the project to, at the very least, hold a fair there.

On Tuesday, county councilman Kent Fisk and Darrin Couch, both members of the nonprofit, told commissioners the group is working to provide them with those details. They expect to have more concrete answers in coming weeks.

Plans for the proposed new fairgrounds, also called the exposition complex or X-Plex, call for the facilities to host a variety of activities year round in addition to the county’s annual 4-H fair.

The nonprofit board would rent the property from the county and pay $10 annually. The county would serve as the landlord, and the nonprofit board would need to hold liability insurance.

The project would double the size of the county fairgrounds and add a multipurpose exposition center, two arenas and six rental barns. A large outdoor amphitheater, a grand gazebo and sizable retention pond also are planned.

Couch told commissioners the group’s original strategic plan didn’t include plans to move the entire fair to the new space immediately. They planned to build the amenities the current facility doesn’t offer, such as an exposition center, first.

And as far as funding for the project, the group is working to identify those sources. Fisk said the group is getting ready to launch its fundraising efforts. A commitment from the commissioners on the land would help secure larger donations, he said.

Commissioner Brad Armstrong said it sounds like the group is getting closer to having the information he said is needed to sign the lease.

If the group begins the project, it needs to be able to finish it or at least be able to have the fair there, he said.

“The wisest business decisions are not made in distress, they’re made in preplanning,” Armstrong said.

He added that the county is OK with leasing the land as long as the project can be funded and built.

“I know it’s frustrating, but obviously the numbers don’t work right now or the plan would be done,” Armstrong told Fisk and Couch. “Keep working on it and come up with a plan that works.”

The commissioners meet again Tuesday.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or