The Wise County Sheriff’s Posse moved from the local fairgrounds Monday night.
Posse representatives removed their locks and moved their office from the Quonset hut on the grounds.
“We’re going to try to find some property somewhere else and do what the Posse did in the beginning – build a new arena, hopefully with a roof,” said Posse President Russell Stephens.
The Sheriff’s Posse has leased the 15-acre property from the county for $1 per year since 1955, but in September, the late County Judge Bill McElhaney told commissioners the long-term lease would not be renewed. He said the county could no longer offer multi-year renewals, and commissioners appointed a Wise County Fairgrounds Committee to oversee the transition.
The last two months included intense negotiations, and in a Nov. 11 commissioners meeting, the group gave the Posse a Dec. 1 deadline to turn in the keys and schedule book.
But as of Monday morning, the group had turned nothing over to the county.
“I talked to one of the Posse members and told him if we didn’t get the keys, we were going to cut the locks,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Danny White said in a commissioners meeting Monday.
“Take their locks off and put our locks on,” he instructed Public Works Administrator Tom Goode. “I don’t think we should delay it. We have officially taken that over today, and I’d like to see the locks changed on it.”
The Posse was notified again the locks would be cut, and the group then removed them and moved from the facility.
Stephens told the Messenger Tuesday afternoon he planned to deliver other keys and the schedule book to Goode later that day, but as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Goode had not received the items. Stephens said they also had a few more belongings to remove from the property. In addition to cleaning out their office Monday night, the Posse also took the tables, chairs and appliances out of the Women’s Building.
Stephens was frustrated Tuesday because he said originally they were told the group could continue to office out of the Quonset hut, but “we were told (Monday) to get our stuff out of there,” he said.
“We’re not asking for anything that the Posse hasn’t worked for since 1954,” he said. “We asked to be treated fairly. That’s all.
“But no sense in crying over spilled milk,” he said. “Let’s get back to doing something positive.”
Stephens said he doesn’t know if the Posse will seek reimbursement from the county for the buildings or the electronic sign that was recently installed, a $30,000 purchase.
“We don’t know … so much is up in the air,” he said.
Monday morning the electronic sign said the Posse had moved and directed folks to wcsposse.com for more information about the group.
By Monday afternoon, the sign had been turned off.
Goode had been instructed by commissioners to turn it off, which was also a source of frustration for Stephens.
“We haven’t put anything negative on that sign about what was going on,” he said. “We were just letting the public know that we were moving.”
Stephens said the Posse’s future activities would be hindered without revenue from the facility. He said it will likely prevent them from giving scholarships and may hinder their ability to put on some of their events.
“I want everything to work out, and I want the court to work with us,” he said.
During Monday’s meeting, commissioners approved, pending its review by Stainton, the Wise County Fairgrounds rental agreement, which outlines the cost to rent specific buildings, as well as the entire facility. Commissioners also approved allowing non-profit organizations and schools to use the facility at no charge.