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Fairgrounds still up for grabs

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wise County commissioners tabled any action related to the Wise County fairgrounds at their regular meeting Monday.

On Sept. 14, County Judge Bill McElhaney announced that the long-term lease of the property by the Wise County Sheriff’s Posse wouldn’t be renewed, but this was the first time the issue was an actual agenda item.

“We’ve been advised by the county attorney to table this because of a recent letter from a lawyer representing the Sheriff’s Posse,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns.

The Posse is represented by Frank Newman with Decker Jones McMackin McClane Hall and Bates in Fort Worth.

County Attorney James Stainton told the Messenger Monday afternoon that the letter includes special requests from the Posse. Although he declined to discuss the details since negotiations are ongoing, he did say the Posse wants “preference for their historic rodeos.”

“And that was really already in play,” said Stainton. “They want some of their rodeo stuff and want access … but (the county) isn’t trying to deny anyone access.

“There’s a few things I have to hash out … But I think we’ll get it worked out,” he said. “I don’t see any problems with it. We should get it handled pretty quick.”

A few current Posse members attended Monday’s meeting, and Posse President Russell Stephens told commissioners that his group had attempted to contact McElhaney for a year-and-a-half.

“… we tried to make contact and do what the judge asked,” he said. “We corresponded with him; we just never had the opportunity to meet face-to-face. We had sent him a copy of everything I thought he needed.”

Posse member Gene King expressed frustration with the Messenger for printing that the county did not yet have keys to the facility or the schedule books.

“It just creates bad feelings for everybody,” he said. “There hasn’t been anything said or talked about, but it’s in there every time there’s an article in the paper.”

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White acknowledged King’s concern and said the county has not asked the Posse to turn in the keys or the schedule book.

Bob Tackett has been a Posse member since 1974, and he said there’s no reason the groups can’t work together.

“The Posse doesn’t have the money to upgrade the facility to where it needs to be, but we can all work together. There’s no doubt about that,” he said. “I know everybody here, or most of you, and I don’t know of anyone here that we couldn’t work together.”

Tackett also expressed concern that the issue of not renewing the lease was never voted on by commissioners.

Last week the county’s Wise County Fairgrounds Committee met with groups that have historically used the facility including the Posse, Wise County Youth Fair, PBR, Wise County Antique Auto Club and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension-Wise County.

Public Works Administrator Tom Goode said the groups discussed maintenance needs for the facility and possible future upgrades.

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