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Lots of talk, little action; Fairgrounds issue still unresolved

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Possession of the Wise County fairgrounds is still up in the air, but chatter over the issue continues.

The lease of the fairgrounds to the Wise County Sheriff’s Posse was not on Monday’s county commissioner agenda, but it was discussed under county committee reports.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Kevin Burns detailed a Sept. 18 meeting of the Wise County Fairgrounds Committee and a few Sheriff’s Posse members.

“They would like to extend the lease or sign a new lease for an extended period of time,” he said. “I told them it’s not legal, and we wouldn’t be able to do so.”

Burns said they did try to reassure Posse members that they would have use of the property as they have in the past, but the Posse wants something in writing.

“I feel like we can’t do that until it’s on the agenda,” he said.

“We offered to accept maintenance, and as soon as possible, swap the electric bill to the county. I hope to resolve this amicably and make it to the best interest of both parties and all parties that use it,” he said.

Burns explained that some Posse members think the lease is good through May 2014 because a 20-year extension was recognized by commissioners court on May 31, 1994. Burns said the recognition given at that time was for an extension of the previous lease, which was dated Aug. 1, 1973.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s ended, and we need to take over maintenance of the property,” he said. “My recommendation is to put it on a future court [agenda] as soon as we can.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Harry Lamance asked if the county should wait until after May to be on the safe side, but Burns said it would be confusing for organizations trying to plan events there.

The county has actually started some maintenance work on the grounds. Public Works Administrator Tom Goode said Tuesday that his department has done some mowing, trimming and painting.

They also had the air conditioners serviced at the Women’s Building and installed an additional unit in that building. Commissioners Monday approved a payment of $13,377 to Mann Refrigeration for the new unit.

“We did a walk-through on most of the buildings and looked at some of the stuff that needs to be done up front so we can start prioritizing those things,” Goode said.

He added that he’d like for the county to be in full control of the facility before they move ahead on most of these projects.

Commissioners voted to put the issue on the Oct. 28 agenda.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White said the committee needs to meet with the Posse leadership again, and he wants to form an advisory board with representatives from some of the larger entities that use the fairgrounds.

“No one should need any protection,” he said. “It’s just to advise us on how to maintain it for their use. They shouldn’t have to come before commissioners or a board or anything else to get to use it.”

Burns said his recommendation would be that any non-profit group with a current 501c3 status should be able to use it for free. White also suggested that groups that previously paid rent according to number of vendor spaces should just pay one rental fee for the whole property.

“Our thought was we’d lease the whole thing for a set price, and then they can set it up however they want to,” he said. Goode also emphasized that the current event calendar will be honored, and all annual events will remain on the schedule as normal.

All of these details will likely be finalized at the Oct. 28 meeting.

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