Nov 2, 2015

Commission recreates Park County Fair Board

For a brief moment last month, commissioners did away with the Park County Fair Board.

However, just a few seconds later, they recreated it and reappointed all of the old board’s members to the new, slightly different one.

The unusual maneuver basically formalized changes commissioners made to the fair board earlier this year.

In February, county commissioners did away with having a fair director and staff controlled by the board and shifted the grounds’management to an events coordinator and staff who answer to the commission.

“When we took all of that over, we were operating in violation of state statutes,” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden.

“Arguably in violation,” threw in Commissioner Loren Grosskopf, before the commission’s unanimous Oct. 13 vote to effectively recreate the board.

“When we took all of that over, we were operating in violation of state statutes,” said Commission Chairman Joe Tilden.

Commissioners’ problem in taking over the fairgrounds’ management is that old fair board had been set up under a state law that gave it the authority to “control, maintain and manage the fairgrounds.”

In other words, the commissioners were taking powers they’d previously delegated to the board.

In creating the “new” board, commissioners made it clear that the body only advises commissioners on the planning, preparation and production of the fair — and that the commissioners control all staff on the fairgrounds.

“Basically, this just clarifies their (board members’) responsibilities more definitively,” explained Commissioner Lee Livingston.

Park County Commission Chairman Joe Tilden
While the most dramatic changes took place this year, county-directed buildings and grounds crews had — with the agreement of the fair board — taken over much of the fairgrounds’ maintenance in 2011.

Commissioners made the additional changes, in part, because of continuing conflict between their buildings and grounds staff and board-directed fair staff. Commissioners had also been unhappy with the state of the grounds under the board.

“They were in charge of building maintenance and everything going on down there, and they weren’t doing their job,” Tilden said. “As simple as that.”

Three of the five board members quit in April in response to commissioners’ takeover, laying off the fair’s then-director in their final act.

Park County Events Coordinator Echo Renner has been heading up the fair’s operations since then.

“The fair has seen many changes over the past 103 years, but it’s still the Park County Fair,” Renner said in a recent email. “We have one of the best fairs in the state. We have an excellent fair board, and they are doing a great job. I’m confident we can continue to work together to produce a fabulous Park County Fair in 2016.”

The “new” Park County Fair Board (made up of the same members as the old one that met last month) held its first official meeting on Tuesday night.

The fair board members had learned of their pending dismissals and reappointments in an email some time before the commissioners’ vote — which caught some off guard.

“I sure would have liked some face-to-face time with the commissioners discussing what was happening,” said Fair Board Vice Chairman Troy Wiant.

Wiant said he’d like to discuss a proposed fair board job description with commissioners, saying their initial draft may minimize the board’s role in setting the fair’s budget. Fair Board Chairman Steve Martin said he also has questions about how things are going to work.

Because commissioners abolished the old “Board of Trustees of the Park County Fair Association” and created the new Park County Fair Board, the board will likely need to rename or change its bank accounts — a process board treasurer Sara Skalsky said may be messy.

The fair board hopes to meet with commissioners soon.

Commissioners remain confident that they made the right choice in shuffling the fair’s management.

“I think it was handled just right,” Tilden said.


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