Fairgrounds future comes down to one meeting

To the editor:

The commissioners and council will sit down with 4-H Ag Association on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Ricks theatre, Greenfield, to discuss the future of fairground operations and facilities. The association owns and operates the current fairgrounds.

The meeting will likely focus on the support and funding mechanisms, which county officials are considering in an effort to help the ag association renovate and expand the fairgrounds at its current location or the feasibility of building supplemental facilities at an alternate site or a completely new fairgrounds at a new location.

Consensus resolution on what is best and most affordable for county taxpayers has so far been a contentious and divisive struggle.

Hopefully, the meeting will be productive. I fear it may just as easily be the end of discussions this time around. The call is pretty much in the hands of the ag association. If the association persists on making unreasonable demands of the commissioners, the commissioners might walk away from the matter.

The commissioners have once again confused matters by stating publicly they are willing to provide the ag association with proceeds from a 1 percent increase in the innkeeper’s tax and lobby for a percent increase in the food and beverage tax for the fairground project.

There are serious problems with the commissioners’ offer. They have neither put limits on the amount of money nor the effective periods for these taxes. They have not sufficiently clarified whether it is their intent to use the proceeds from these taxes to leverage even more revenues, well above the $12 million cap that has been tossed around by the commissioners.

The question of whether subsequent bonding would be permitted has never been fully and publicly addressed by the commissioners.

Further, neither the commissioners nor the council has addressed how the ag association and county intend to fund the considerable increased annual operating costs. The commissioners and council need to remember that a significant part of the Hancock County community strongly opposes using tax revenues to subsidize not-for-profits and their activities.

Many members of the community feel that taxing people and then turning around and using the tax proceeds to fund these groups is redistribution of wealth.

The commissioners need to ensure that they leave no questions or terms of the agreement unanswered as they attempt to resolve fairgrounds issues. No assumptions should be made, no matter how inconsequential they may seem.

The commissioners need to understand that any agreement reached with the ag association is meaningless. A majority of the council supports the construction of an X-Plex and can ultimately make that happen once the project comes before them for funding.

These council members are intent on issuing revenue bonds and identifying other funding sources, which will undo any spending caps or limits imposed by the commissioners.

The county council plans on significantly increasing the amount of tax dollars that will be made available for the fairgrounds/X-Plex project and subsequent operations once built.

Fred Dunlevy