EATON — During a meeting on Monday, Feb. 24, Preble County Commissioners discussed a letter sent to them by the Preble County Agricultural Society alleging money rightfully the society’s had had not been passed along.
The letter reads, “The Preble County Agricultural Society has been established within the statute of the Ohio Revised Code 1711.01 giving the Senior Fair Board the control and management of the lands and improvements at the fairgrounds.
“Over the past several years, the Preble County Commission has started building projects without the input or consent of the Senior Fair Board. Additionally, the Commission has sold rights of way and easements that hinder the Fair Boards’ ability to strategically plan for future development. County records will document the Preble County Commission has retained the funds derived from these sales and not forwarded the proceeds to the Senior Fair Board, inconsistent with the ORC.
“In order to remain in compliance with Ohio Revised Code 1711.31, and to keep costs affordable so families may enjoy the Famous Preble County Fair, and to maintain the fairgrounds for future generations, the Preble County Agricultural Society requests all past and future monies derived from the sale of rights of way, and easements be promptly remitted to the Preble County Agricultural Society.
“While the control and management of the fairgrounds are vested with the Preble County Agricultural Society, we look forward to working with the Preble County Commission on future developments and improvements at the Fairgrounds which benefit all Preble County residents.”
During the meeting on Monday, Feb. 24, Commission Clerk Kim Keller provided the Commissioners with a copy of their funding history with the fair board.
“I checked with [Assistant Prosecutor Michele Thomas] and she said she is very confident after the research she did, the monies would not go to them. If they are that concerned with the money that is not entitled to them, maybe we should try to get back the money we loaned them that we weren’t going to ask to forgive. I don’t know why they’re playing hardball – they are getting the tower money, technically that is supposed to go to the county,” Commission Rodney Creech said.
“I don’t know why they think we’re trying to take them on this. Technically, we earmarked that money [and] it is going to the fairgrounds! We’re not putting it in the general fund. We put that $45,000, or whatever that amount was, in general fund and we want to use it towards the fairgrounds. I don’t get where that letter is coming from.”
Commission President Denise Robertson added, “If this progresses, how much do the county tax payers pay to insure everything out there? I don’t even know how much money [we pay] a year on insurance for those buildings out there. The most recent contributions we’ve made out there, we have $268,000 we have put of public money out towards the building out there. Then the grant that was given, we put it all towards improving the fairgrounds.”
“I think we know who is behind it and I think we know why,” Creech said. “If you look at the Ohio Revised Code, they say proceeds generated, well, an easement is not a proceed generated.”
Robertson added, that would mean if the commission was taking ticket proceeds, which they’ve never done.
“If they do pursue this, like I hear they’re going to, we might have to look at drawing all funds back they’re not entitled to, plus asking for reimbursement for the monies we’ve never asked for back. Technically, they’re in debt to the general fund,” Creech said.
Commissioner Chris Day replied, “They always have been.”
Creech added, he believes it is “political” and “uncalled for.”
Keller clarified, in their statement, they claim the commission has been doing work without the Fair Boards’ input.
Robertson responded, “That is not true.”
“I can’t think of one thing that has happened at that fairgrounds they haven’t been in the loop on. The one thing I can think of was when we put that cable in the ground and they were still involved in that, they just didn’t like it,” Creech said.
“We’ve check numerous times, we’re not entitled to give them anything,” Day said. “The tower money is a bonus, we don’t have to give that to them. It is county property. They have the right to hold a fair on it, whatever the Ohio Revised Code said, but other than that, as you said [Creech], this is political. It is a bunch of BS and if we have to, we’ll turn it over and let the prosecutor take care of it.”
He added, he wishes they can work together moving forward, instead of fighting. He also asked to discuss the situation with legal officials in the future.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH