EATON — During their meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 23, the Preble County Commissioners responded to a letter sent to them from the Agricultural Society regarding the Expo Expansion project.
The letter read, “The Preble County Agricultural Society would like to express our willingness to assist the Preble County Commission to complete the Expo Expansion Project. This project will enhance not only the fairgrounds, but our community. The Preble County Agricultural Society has secured $50,000 from Reid Health Network and a $50,000 grant from the State of Ohio to use toward this project. Additionally, we will commit to the commissioners 50 percent of the rental fees received from the Expo Expansion for five years. We would encourage the commissioners to reduce the scope of the project to the construction of restrooms and showers, making the space more marketable to rent.
“In accordance with the Ohio Revised Code, an agricultural society is limited to the amount of indebtedness it shall incur. We cannot jeopardize our ability to conduct an annual Junior 4-H Fair or maintain the grounds for all other year-round events.”
Commission President Rodney Creech read the letter into the record and opened the floor for discussion.
“My first problem I have with this letter is — five years, it should basically be until it is paid off. There is my first problem. I imagine it is going to take a while to get it up and running, that people would know what a good venue it is. It might take them a while to get the flow of events. I don’t want to limit it to a certain number of years, until everything is paid off,” Commissioner Denise Robertson said.
“They keep thinking this is their debt. This is not their debt, it is our debt. They keep saying they can’t go into debt, but they’re not going into debt. They just have to pay for the building. We’re the ones going into debt,” Creech said.
“I thought I made it very clear two or three times, this is not your debt, this is a debt we will be assuming, all we are asking for is your support. Any monies that come from the rent of the addition will be utilized to pay that down until it is paid off. Then all that money goes back to you guys,” Commissioner Chris Day said.
“They brought up that there will be maintenance and things, and we can work that out — we understand that if you put bathrooms in, you have to buy toilet paper. We don’t mind putting money toward that. I just don’t understand why they think they’re assuming that debt.”
Creech added, if the Fair Board wants the project paid off in five years, it will have to reduce the loan amount so it is possible to pay off in that amount of time. This means it will have to spend more time raising money for the project before it can be started.
“What they’ve done is, they’ve told us that we may not be building this for a few years. If they’re willing to commit 50 percent of the income over five years, we have to estimate what that is and it may be five years before we complete this project, because they’ve backed us into a corner,” Creech said.
“Number one, I don’t think that is their call, we’re the ones on the hook,” Day said. “I don’t know where they’re telling us they’re going to keep 50 percent of it, that is not their call.”
The board also discussed the scope of the project and how they cannot change the scope of the project without incurring additional costs to change plans. The way the plans are approved now, the building cannot get permanent occupancy until the plan is completed.
“I think they’re at least willing to work with us and that is a great thing,” Creech said. “We needed to know what their plan was. I appreciate the letter and I think it is a positive, but unfortunately they don’t realize that we have already put $400,000 of general fund money in. We put a lot of work in this too.”
Creech said he would speak with the Fair Board about the letter and about the fundraising list members reviewed during its last meeting.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH