Fairgrounds project should be overseen by unbiased board

To the editor:

I think locating the X-Plex at the county farm is a bad idea. If you talk to the Indianapolis convention and hospitality people, they will tell you that convention centers need to be in downtown areas within walking distance of hotels, restaurants and other amenities.

The county farm does not begin to meet any of these criteria. It is located over three and a half miles from downtown Greenfield. That’s a heck of walk, even for somebody in the best of condition.

Even if you could come up with the money to build the X-Plex, the location works against it being a successful venture.

I seriously doubt if that $30 million figure includes everything. I’m sure millions more would be needed for signage, furnishings, equipment, vehicles, sound systems and heaven knows what else.

The question now is, “How can we trust this not-for-profit corporation with no public oversight with $30 million dollars or more of taxpayer money?” The answer is that we cannot! This group has provided no proof whatsoever on any of their claims in their inadequate strategic plan. Oh, they make grandiose claims to attract national cattle, horse and other shows from the Indiana State Fairgrounds, but where are the letters of intent, pledges or other documents to support their claims?

I haven’t seen any — and I attend almost all their meetings on the first Wednesday of every month at the Greenfield Area Chamber of Commerce conference room at 7 p.m.

The nonprofit overseeing the project has very little private money in their account. In October 2014, they received and spent close to $45,000 in money funneled to them from the Hancock County Tourism Commission via the Hancock County Community Foundation via the Hancock County Ag, Association, which in turn used it to cover expenses incurred by the nonprofit.

At a joint meeting of the county commissioners and council on Dec. 16, 2014, the public was repeatedly assured by Commissioner Tom Stevens and council members Kent Fisk, Bill Bolander, Jim Shelby and Tom Roney that not a penny of taxpayer money would be spent on this project.

Now we learn that the proposed project will be built and operated exclusively with taxpayer dollars. Our commissioners and county council need to recall their representatives and dissolve their association and relationship with the nonprofit.

The nonprofit has created a project too large for it to handle. It has also shown that it has neither the funds nor the skills necessary to successfully complete the proposed project.

If the commissioners and council are serious about going forward, they need to establish a county board or commission. One elected township board member from each of the nine townships would serve on the board, which would be subject to oversight by the Board of Commissioners and the Indiana State Board of Accounts.

Commissioners, stop wasting your time and efforts. Appoint the nine township board members now!

George Langston