Fairgrounds committee presents conflict of interest

To the editor:

The 2016 primaries should be a long overdue referendum on the county discontinuing its drawn-out and purposeless negotiations with the Hancock County Exposition Complex Corporation.

Hancock County Commissioner Brad Armstrong first stated no lease should be signed until there is a workable business plan at the Dec. 30, 2014, commissioners’ meeting.

Commissioners Armstrong and Marc Huber have requested a “workable business plan” from the Hancock County Exposition Complex Corporation for more than a year.

At the commissioners’ meeting on Dec. 15, 2015, commissioners Armstrong and Huber reiterated their need for a workable business plan and specifics on just how the Hancock County Exposition Complex Corporation was proposing that the county come up with the $30 to $40 million required to build, fund and operate the project.

What they got was an updated ground lease agreement with no specifics or details related to funding.

State Rep. Bob Cherry, R-Greenfield, has proposed legislation to increase the food and beverage tax (from 1 percent to 2 percent) — money local officials have earmarked for the fairgrounds if the legislation is approved.

House Bill 1096 increases the tax, but it also strips the commissioners’ control over the county farm and places it under the control of the county council.

House Bill 1096 cannot be repealed. It allows the tax dollars to be used for construction, operating and maintenance cost of the new fairgrounds, public safety and a revenue bond for this project, which could produce an estimated bond yield of $12.5 million, and any other county obligations.

Don’t forget the county council raised the innkeepers tax 1 percent for this project. Both tax increases are not enough to fund this project

Where are all the corporate donations Hancock County Exposition Complex Corporation president Kent Fisk and vice president Tom Stevens claimed they could raise a year ago? Not one dime has been donated or pledged by local or regional corporations.

A conflict of interest exists with the county officials embedded within the Hancock County Exposition Complex Corporation. In my opinion, Commissioner Stevens, Councilmen Fisk, Shelby, Bolander and Roney — and even our county attorney, Mr. Ray Richardson — have made the Hancock County Exposition Complex Corporation a defacto county government corporation.

These four county councilmen represent a controlling financial entity within the county council. All taxpayer dollars requested by the Hancock County Exposition Complex Corporation from the council will pass if these councilmen refuse to recuse themselves.

After a year and a half of haggling, it should be obvious to Commissioner Armstrong and all others that the Hancock County Exposition Complex Corporation officers, board of directors and committee members have proven they are incapable of planning, supervising and managing this large-scale project.

It is time for Commissioners Armstrong and Huber to step up and put an end to the Hancock County Exposition Complex Corporation initiative before any more taxpayer dollars are obligated by and to this private county government-controlled corporation.

George Langston


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Noelle Steele is editor of the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3232 or nsteele@greenfieldreporter.com.