GREENFIELD — County tourism officials are considering whether to fund repairs to the Hancock County 4-H Fairgrounds — using money that had been earmarked for a new facility.
The $49,000 request comes amid debate over funding for the fairgrounds’ proposed $18 million replacement site. Meanwhile, 4-H leaders say repairs at the current property can’t wait.
Barb Pescitelli, president of the Hancock County Agricultural Association, recently asked the Hancock County Tourism Commission for funding to re-pave crumbling parking lots at the existing fairgrounds at 620 Apple St.
Pescitelli told the commission she needs $49,000 to pave the parking lot at the fairgrounds because the existing pavement has deteriorated. Some 200 events use the fairgrounds facility yearly, and those events would benefit from any improvements to the venue, she said.
Several buildings on the fairgrounds are open to being rented and see foot traffic well outside fair week. Pescitelli cited commonly used areas that could pose a safety hazard to visitors and vendors alike.
“The area in front of the exhibit hall is in desperate need of some repair,” she said.
She requested the tourism commission use funds from a portion of the 5 percent innkeepers tax — a fee charged to hotel guests — reserved for the new fairgrounds project. Commission members said they aren’t sure whether the $75,000 generated annually from that portion of the tax can legally be used for the current site.
The commission plans to hire an attorney to review the request.
Hancock County Tourism director Brigette Cook Jones said while officials raise money for the new fairgrounds facility — whose future remains uncertain — repairs to the existing fairgrounds can serve as a temporary fix to an important facility, which she said sees events nearly every weekend.
“Unfortunately, where it’s at right now, the parking lot is a mud pit, and they can’t expand,” she said. “The facilities are inadequate.”
Commission member Kelly McClarnon suggested the commission wait to dole out funding, citing concerns it’s not the tourism commission’s purpose to grant funding for repairs. He suggested Pescitelli might need to go before the Hancock County Commissioners instead.
The commission typically supplies funding to events taking place in Hancock County, with organizers using the money for advertising. In the last year, the commission has granted funding to such items as a promotional video and website for the Flat-50 bike ride and the hiring of a consultant for a project to connect all of Hancock County’s walking and biking trails.
McClarnon acknowledged that it’s important to maintain the county’s existing fairgrounds amid the delays on the possible future fairgrounds project.
“We just need a little more clarity,” he said.