The Adams County Fair will soon be a thing of the past… in name only that is. The change is coming about after a 2017 State Audit revealed a misappropriation of funds by the Adams County Fair Association.
As it turns out, the State requires any entity that has Adams County attached to its name to channel all revenue through the county treasurer, and that wasn’t the case with the Fair Association. The Association also gave free admission to specific groups of people, which is also a no-no according to State guidelines.
Commissioners were informed they needed to rectify the situation, and ensure it wouldn’t happen again. So they came up with three options to offer the Association.
Option one would have the Association enter into an agreement to contract with the County to plan, organize, direct and control the operations of the official Adams County Fair event. All monies the Association has acquired for past county fairs would have to be turned over in kind or interests assigned to Adams County. This would include all cash and investments. All in total amounts to $250,000.
The County would maintain the grounds, and prepare and adopt a budget for the official event with the Association’s input. All proceeds collected would have to be deposited to the County, and all operational expenditures would have to be approved by the County.
The Association would also be required to have its budget preapproved prior to staging the fair, organize the event within a given timeframe, direct attendees, vendors and visitors, control the collection of proceeds from vendors, visitors and participants in the event, and adhere to County accounting policies and procedures.
Option two would have the Fair Association rent the Adams County Fairgrounds and facilities to stage a community fair, and carry an insurance policy naming the County as additional insured. The Association would be responsible for the planning, organization, direction and control a community fair using its current funds available.
All revenue generated would belong to the Association, and no State or County dollars would be budgeted for the event. The Association would also have to pay a damage deposit to uses the facilities and would be responsible for any and all damages or extra ordinary maintenance and repair expenses that occur.
Option three would be to shelve the fair for the 2018 season.
On May 14, the two parties got together in the Commissioners chambers in Ritzville to hash things out. The Associations was told they needed to decide post-haste the option they were going to select and that they were to hopefully reveal its decision when they reconvened May 23 in Othello.
“We had an emergency meeting (May 22) with the fair board and the livestock committee and there was a vote made, but not all members were present,” Anthony Dailey, president of the Adams County Fair Association said. “We do have some questions on option one and two, so we’d like to get those answered prior to discussing of where we would like to see this proceed.”
Adams County Prosecutor Randy Flyckt then chimed in for a clarification about the ballots cast.
“Could we clarify for the record… you said you had a vote of the Association last night?”
“That’s correct Dailey,” replied.
“What was the results of that vote…were you in favor or against…what was the nature of the motion you were voting on?” Flyckt asked.
“The vote was option one or option two,” Dailey said. “Option one zero votes, option two seven votes.”
“So then if I understand correctly you have some questions about option two?” Flyckt stated.
“That’s correct,” Dailey said.
Brad Boersma, a board member with the livestock committee, who was not in attendance at the Associations emergence meeting wanted the commissioners to restate options one and two. Flyckt then gave him the rundown.
Boersma then asked about the terms of the rental agreement, the days of length and the amount of the damage deposit.
Adams County Public Works Director Todd O’Brien told Boersma the County would rent the grounds, the facilities and campgrounds for 14 days and allow 10 days prior for set up and 10 days afterward for take down for a lump sum of $25,000. That amount was dropped to $20,000 after hearing the Association nets just $18,000 after everything is said and done.
Other Association members had questions and the commissioners did their best to address them, but some of the member seemed dissatisfied with their responses. Flyckt then reminded both sides as a point of order that the clock was ticking very rapidly and that it was important to decide today, which option the Association was going to accept…and if they kept going back and forth for an extended period of time the existing contact between the two entities would expire leaving things in the balance and risk not having a fair at all this year.
Boersma then suggested a 10 minute recess so the Association could discuss the commissioner’s responses before a final decision was announced. The recess was granted. After returning to the courtroom, the Association announced it would exercise option two.
Flyckt said he and O’Brien would draw the new rental contract and suggested both parties get together after the fair concluded and discuss how things went. He reminded the Association if things didn’t go as hoped, they can always change the venue back to a county fair.
Adams County Commissioner John Marshall was glad the two parties were able to sort things out and that the Association opted for option two.
“This whole thing came about because the State Auditor said Adams County doesn’t have proper control over the money. So in an effort to do that it has to come under wings,” Marshall said. “I’m happy with the way the proceedings went. We (the commissioners) want a fair as much as everybody else does. We were unable to provide it at this short notice… don’t have the staff to cover it. Their desire (the AC Fair Association) to have a fair is as strong as ours so I am glad we came to reconciliation.”
Dailey said the reason the Association opted for option two instead of letting the County run things was all revenue, past and present would be turned over to the County. The Association also wanted to be able to continue to offer free admission to specific groups of people.
“Option two would allow more control over operations and what we want to charge at the gate. We want to be able to continue giving free admission to our military personnel, police and fire, our 153 volunteers that help us put the fair on, the FFA judging team and kindergarten age kids,” Dailey said. “We also have a substantial bank account and the County would’ve received every dime of it and all the proceeds from the fair itself, so we felt option two with us paying to rent the grounds was a better option than turning it all over to the County.”
Although the Association would be operating at a $2,000 loss, there are no plans in the works to raise the price of admission. Changing the venue to a community fair also means the Association would not be eligible for $34,000 in State Fair funding.
“We’ll be in the hole $2,000 but it could’ve been $7,000 Dailey said. “As for the premium dollars from the State…we can qualify for the money after two years.”
Flyckt was happy to see a consensus reached between the county and the fair association.
“I’m sure not everyone is satisfied with the decision, but I was happy to see that there seemed to be a commitment from both parties to have more discussions in the future. This is going to be a trial thing this year to see how it goes as a county fair…there’ll be an opportunity to make it into something different in the future,” he said. “So, overall, the negotiations were a success. I know there’s been a lot of tension between the commissioners and the fair association through the years and I certainly hope there’s going to be a way in the future where there’s a process that brings about a healing some of that tension and working more cooperatively for the benefit of the community.”
As for the new name of the fair Dailey said, “We’re holding an emergency board meeting next week to discuss it. I’m leaning toward calling it the Othello Fair…we have the Othello Rodeo Association, so it should be the Othello Fair.