SIDNEY — The Shelby County Agricultural Society (fair board) will begin a fundraising effort soon to support capital improvements at the fairgrounds.
During the board’s December meeting, it received results of an assessment that was recently completed by Fair Funding LLC., of Cincinnati, to determine whether the community thought infrastructure upgrades at the fairgrounds were needed.
Steve Eddingfield and Matt Hughes, of Fair Funding, reported that they had queried 56 Shelby County residents during a seven-week period and that the public thought a campaign for capital projects should be undertaken.
“The fair board provided us with a list of 30 names of people we should talk to but only about a third of the 56 came from that list,” Eddingfield told the Sidney Daily News Wednesday. “The rest were referrals.”
Fair Funding asked the survey participants to rank in order of importance five items that had been identified as fairgrounds needs. A new grandstand topped the list, followed by a multipurpose building, upgrades to the steer and dairy barn, drainage improvement and an endowment.
In early 2015, fair officials thought that state money might be available to replace the grandstand, but legislators voted a much lower budget amount to support county fair projects than was anticipated.
“We did a whole lot of work” to prepare a proposal, said Shelby County Commissioner Tony Bornhorst. “So we thought we’d pursue it a little further” even though the possiblity of state funding had dried up.
Fair Funding had managed successful feasibility studies and fundraising campaigns for grandstands at fairgrounds in Holmes and Columbiana counties, whose commissioners highly recommended the firm to Shelby County officials. The $13,000 fee for the local assessment was paid equally by the fair board and the county.
Following the assessment, Eddingfield said Fair Funding recommended that the fair board move forward with a fundraising campaign. Bornhorst said county attorneys are now going over a proposed contract with Fair Funding to manage the campaign, which will begin soon after the agreement is signed.
“We plan to sign the contract next week,” Bornhorst said. The $13,000-per-month fee which will be charged by Fair Funding will be paid from the county’s permanent improvement fund as a loan.
“(The commissioners) are committed to following through on fundraising. If there’s just enough money (raised) for one project and the permanent improvement (fund) doesn’t get the loan back, that’s OK. If there’s enough to pay back the fund for another project, that’s great,” Bornhorst said.
According to Eddingfield, the campaign goal would be $1.5 million in six months. Estimates for the cost of a new grandstand total $900,000. The additional monies would support some of the other projects on the list.
“You try to raise enough money initially to take care of projects you’re going to need to address in the next two or three years, so you don’t get one thing and then have to go back to ask for money for the next thing,” he said. “Our name is our living. We never do a project without an assessment and we never get into a project we don’t think will be successful.”
In Holmes County, Bornhorst said, the goal was to raise $750,000 and “they’re over $7 million.”
The Shelby County fair board is developing a committee of board members and nonmembers to evaluate how monies raised should be spent and to make recommendations to the fair board.
“The ultimate goal is to have facilities that allow the fair board to have other events here to help meet costs,” Bornhorst said.
Fair Secretary Jerry Schaffner and board President Mitch Brautigam said that the fair operates in the black, but keeping the fairgrounds operational year round and in good repair requires that rentals take place during nonfair periods. Currently, events are scheduled at the fairgrounds about 40 weeks of the year. A new grandstand would attract even more facility use and bring in even more revenue.
“We think it’s a positive step. It’s a positive fair board/community project,” Brautigam said of the proposed campaign.
In other business, the board:
• Voted not to change the days of the goat and lamb shows at the fair. A change had been proposed in November and the discussion had been tabled.
• Voted to charge in 2016 what had been charged in 2015 for tractor pull participants to get into the fair and for pit passes.
• Approved the purchase of 12 LED night lights for the fairgrounds.
• Closed out the 2015 fair year.
• Approved a holiday pay bonus for fairgrounds caretaker Chris Roediger.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.