County to take over fair maintenance?

The Big Horn County Fair Board held a special joint work session with the Big Horn County Commissioners in Lovell Monday to discuss the monetary issues they are facing for the remainder of the year.

It was recently discovered the fair’s cash reserve of $30,200 had been added twice to the budget and funding had already been spent. According to a previous newspaper article, board member Willie Bridges said at the Big Horn Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 4, “It looks like our expenses are within the budget, but that’s because the revenues were inflated. We always have cash flow issues, but this one is exaggerated because of the budget mistake. We need to ask you to increase our budget to cover the budget error.”

Monday night Chairman Jerry Ewen said, “In looking forward, one of the things we had talked about the other day at the meeting was a dollar amount and how we would handle that to keep everything operating, and the other issue is restructuring the maintenance to put it back into the county. This other issue is payroll staying with your CPA (certified public accountant).”

Board member Alfred Anderson said if the county were to take over the payroll, the County Clerk Dori Noyes would need to hire another employee to do payroll and to do other necessary work for the fair board.

Commissioner Keith Grant said, “If we are going to change it over and have the county handle the money and it is not going to save us anything or be more economical there is no need to make the change.”

Grant added he can see the benefits of combining the maintenance with the county, stating, “The grounds maintenance we can incorporate into our county maintenance guy and make that more efficient and probably cheaper.”

Grant also said he believed combining the fair maintenance with the county maintenance would be beneficial and successful.

Bridges said, “Fred Werner (county maintenance supervisor) taking the maintenance, I think, could work really well. The person(s) that would work underneath would be his employee and he would be the supervisor to that employee and he would just work closely with our manager as to what needs to be done … I think we would see more regular maintenance and more consistency in it than what we have had.”

Bridges suggested the board utilize the temporary work program through the county that would allow the fair to be reimbursed the wages for the part-time summer help. He added this would be beneficial because it would help lighten the budget load from the fairgrounds.

Bridges said it would be great if Werner could begin as soon as possible, but it comes down to the available funding. Funding would be needed to hire a fair manager. According to Bridges, they would need $30,800 minimum for utilities and employment.

Board Chairman Matty Moody said they have already selected a well-rounded candidate for the fair manager but have not extended an offer.

Anderson suggested to the board members that the county plan a two-year budget to help prepare each year’s funding. Anderson said because of the inconsistency of the fair revenues a two-year budget would be beneficial.

Bridges said the budget could vary each year by thousands of dollars. Ewen suggested to take the averages from the past three to four years to help target the necessary funding, but the legality would need to be checked before a commitment is made.

Ewen said these items could be taken up at the next commissioners meeting on Oct. 18.

Bridges made a motion during the public Big Horn County Fair Board meeting to present the commissioners with a proposal to provide a two-year budget that includes having the fairgrounds maintenance turned over to county forces and that the commissioners supplement the budget with a minimum amount of $30,800 due to the misunderstanding in the budget.

By Jennifer Butler – Basin Republican Rustler