Fair board outlines financial issues to commissioners

Members of the Washington County Fair Board had an opportunity to update the Washington County Commissioners on what’s going on with this year’s fair at the regular commission meeting Thursday.

President Kurt Bohlen, vice president Brian Barth and treasurer Sandra Hickey spoke to the commissioners about changes with the board and what plans moving forward. It was a request the commissioners made after receiving public feedback.

“The public has a view that we have more involvement with the fair board than we actually do,” said Commissioner David White. “We have the statutorial involvement with the money we donate and the insurance and that, but it’s kind of nice to be updated periodically about what’s going on.”

Commissioner Rick Walters said he would like to see more of a partnership with the county.

“It is a community fair and it takes more than the 21 fair board members to make it successful,” he said.

The fair board has had two public forums to hear concerns over how the fair has been organized in the past. Hickey said decisions of past fair boards have left them $35,000 to $40,000 in debt from last year’s fair and $250,000 to $300,000 total debt, including paying for the cattle barn.

“We’re at a financial crisis, I guess you could call it. But we’re moving in a good direction. We’re making principal payments on the barn now instead of just the interest,” said Bohlen. “We’re basically financially able to keep the lights on, keep the utilities paid and we’re slowly trying to pay down our debt.”

A recent fundraising gun raffle brought $12,000 for the board and Bohlen said that money is being used to pay off several local businesses that contributed to last year’s fair.

Bohlen and Barth are just starting their second year as fair board members and the commissioners commended them for bringing fresh ideas into a difficult situation.

The discussion also included possible ways that the fair could change, including changing the date to not be so close to the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, which was mentioned by Feathers.

All three commissioners concurred that returning to the roots of agriculture, including more vendors, activities for youth that aren’t just rides, and reducing entrance fees would eventually help to bring the crowds back to the fair.

“It’s going to be a slow turn around. I’m not talking about 2018 or even 2019, but if you were to rebrand it into something family-friendly, eventually they’ll come back,” Feathers said.

Also at Thursday’s meeting:

¯ Flite Freimann, director of Washington County Job and Family Services, discussed a partnership with the Washington County Library system that would allow a dedicated computer at each branch for people to search for jobs through Ohio Means Jobs and Comprehensive Case Management and Employment Program.

“They will brand the computers with the logos and we will train the librarians on how to get people set up,” Freimann said. “We have a large number of people that come into JFS simply to take advantage of our computers and our internet. There’s no need for people who live in Beverly, Barlow or Belpre to drive all the way (to Marietta) when there’s a library in their community.”

¯ Washington County Assistant Prosecutor Alison Cauthorn and Washington County Treasurer Tammy Bates discussed moving forward with getting different county entities set up with credit/debit machines. The commissioners made a resolution declaring Bates the administrative agent who would oversee the process of contracting with vendors and determining the needs of different departments. She said it was her goal to get moving on updating the system by the end of the year

What’s ahead

¯ Monthly County Home meeting, May 15 at 8:30 a.m.

¯ Finance committee, May 15 at 10 a.m.

¯ Council of Governments, May 21 at noon

¯ Planning commission, May 21 at 7 p.m.

¯ RSVP Appreciation Cruise, May 22 at 1 p.m.