During the very meeting at which Mary Bullen was sworn in as the newest member of the Preble County Agricultural Society Board of Directors (Fair Board), other members finally accepted an offer from her of a donation which will pay for three-years salary and payroll taxes for a new fairgrounds manager.
In 2011, Bullen offered fair board officials what could amount to over $200,000 to fully fund a “fairgrounds executive director” to help the venue grow and prosper. In a letter to the board in December of that year, she noted, “I believe this full time position should bring the business expertise, management, and interpersonal/collaborative skills necessary to make even bigger strides in improving our fair and fairgrounds. My financial commitment to you, if accepted, would be the following:
“•Three year full salary as agreed to by the Hiring Committee and myself.
“•All payroll taxes for this position paid.
“•Position reports directly to the board. All other positions would report to the Director.”
In mid-February 2012, Fair Board members turned down the offer in a 6-5 vote against a motion to even further investigate the proposal.
At a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 16, board member Joe Kimball made the motion to “accept the generous offer” from Bullen, which would cover salary and payroll taxes for a fairgrounds manager, for three years.
The motion passed with a 9-2-3 vote (Joe Ferriell, Cathy Combs, Mark Bruner, Carole Fritz, Brad Johnson, Kimball, Rodney Mann, Christie Millhouse, Kerrick Wilson, yes; Ryan Grimme, Lori Monebrake, no; Bullen, Dean Petry, Clint Stevenson, abstain.) Kevin Turner was not present for the meeting.
The need for a fairgrounds executive director is urgent, as former manager Duane Grimme resigned in December.
The search for a replacement will begin after a job description is devised and agreed upon by the board. Board president, Mann, asked for member input into the description, and asked that this information be brought back to a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. This meeting will be for the sole purpose of discussing the fair manager’s job description.
Once a description is agreed upon, and the position is advertised, a hiring committee to include the Fair Board Executive Committee and Bullen will narrow the search to approximately three individuals, Mann said, and then office manager/treasurer Lori Page would be brought in to meet with those selections.
The committee will then make a recommendation to the board.
The chosen candidate will be hired under the stipulation that revenue at the fairgrounds need to be increased. If the new manager fails to perform, they will be let go.
The hope, according to Mann, would be to “bring in more money, so we can bump up the salaries of the other employees.”
Mann thanked Bullen for the offer.
In other business:
*Board members discussed the cash-strapped financial situation of the fairgrounds. Page and Mann reported as many necessary payments (DP&L, etc.) as possible were being made. Necessary bills are being paid first, “others will have to wait,” Mann said. According to officials, approximately $19,000 in bills have not been paid.
*Board members agreed to contract with the rodeo company which presented a rodeo program on the Monday night of the 2014 fair, at a cost of $9,000. At this time, there will be no concert. The ATV races from last year will be eliminated, in favor of garden tractor pull contests the last Saturday of the fair.
*Bruner reported the board needed to institute a “no conflict of interest” statement to be signed by members. Conflicts he noted which had been prevalent in the past were incidents like nepotism. Grimme questioned if the donation from board member Bullen would be a conflict of interest. Officials will research to be certain.
*Board members agreed to work with Jr. Fair board members to write/send a letter to a Jr. Fair exhibitor who was stripped of his winnings last year after being caught consuming alcohol. The warning letter will advise he will be kicked out if he breaks the rules again.
*Agreed to take sealed bids for the sale of the fairgrounds’ used fire truck.
*Discussed recent devastation to Bruner Arena following extensive water leaks. Everything from dropped ceilings to new drywall will be necessary in restrooms, kitchen and other areas. According to Mann, the Pork Festival Board will be pitching in to help out.