Funding needed to complete Expo Expansion

By Kelsey Kimbler -

EATON — The Preble County Commissioners continue to brainstorm ways to fund the Expo Expansion project at the Preble County Fairgrounds.

During a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 19, the board met with various partners to discuss the ongoing project.

The meeting included County Commissioners Denise Robertson, Chris Day, and Rodney Creech, Fairgrounds Manager Jim Shute, Junior Fair Board representative Christy Millhouse, Pork Festival Coordinators Mike and Becky Henning, and Fair Board representatives Clinnie Stevenson, Alan Vonderhaar, and William Croucher.

Currently, the project is estimated to cost $900,000 and Shute has fundraised $150,000. Of that money, $50,000 is donated by Reid Health, $50,000 will be donated by the Preble County Pork Festival, and $50,000 is from a grant Shute has secured.

That means, $750,000 is still needed to finish the inside of the building expansion.

According to Commissioner Day, the purpose for this meeting was to see if everyone was on board with continuing the Expo Expansion project. He explained, to fund raise money in the future, they would need full support from all parties involved.

“We looked at it and if we would have to do some type of financing or something like that to make payments, I think we were looking somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 that we would have payments of somewhere between $30,000 to $40,000 a year,” Day said.

“In our last discussion, if we can raise money or get enough money to knock that total number down to $400,000 then it would be palatable that rental fees would make the payment. The more money we can raise in the front end, makes it a lot more palatable in the back end to get it paid off.

“If we can get that number down, and we are more successful than we were banking on the front end, we can pay this off a lot sooner. Then it is a money-generating facility for the fairgrounds. That is our thought from our last talk.”

The commissioners recommended two different ways money could be borrowed: from a bank or from the general fund.

Preble County can get a loan for this money and sign an agreement with the fairgrounds. The county will be legally responsible for the money, but would have an agreement for the fairgrounds to make the payments. According to the commissioners, current market rate loans have five percent interest.

Or, Preble County can loan the fairgrounds this money from the general fund. The fairgrounds would sign an agreement with the county to pay the money back, but would not be obligated to pay interest. Commissioner Robertson was in full support of this plan, if they could get more donations for the project and only loan $400,000 to $500,000.

Commissioner Rodney Creech asked the Fair Board to be willing to spend revenue from Expo rentals to pay the loan back. He explained, they are not expecting any money from existing contracts to go toward the loan. That is money used for the operation of the fairgrounds, which the commissioners understand.

However, as the bathrooms are finished at the Expo Expansion, Creech expects the building to be rented out more frequently. It is his hope part of the money generated from new rental agreements be used to pay off any loan the county employs for funding purposes.

Commissioner Day asked for input from those in attendance and asked if they had any questions or doubts. Fair Board representative Stevenson did share concerns of the fair board. He explained, some board members are concerned with money being subtracted from operating expenses and some board members are worried about being held responsible for any money borrowed in the future.

The Fair Board would not be legally held responsible for any money borrowed for the Expo Expansion project, as it will be the Preble County Commissioners who are actually taking out the loan. Unless, officials pointed out, they decide to directly loan the money to the Ag Society and forgo any actual loan from the bank.

However, before moving forward, the Fair Board members must discuss the project among themselves. Commissioners agreed to attend the Fair Board’s future meeting to present the project themselves.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH