4-H fairgrounds fees limited | SteamboatToday.com

4-H fairgrounds fees limited

Youths won't be charged for most organized group activities

Blythe Terrell

— In a meeting that carried an air of tension and included concerned public comment, the Routt County Fair Board agreed to move forward with a fee structure for use of the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden.

Two Routt County commissioners and about 30 residents attended the discussion Wednesday in Steamboat Springs, focusing on whether fees would apply to 4-H members. The Fair Board voted to waive fees for scheduled, instructional 4-H activities over which a 4-H leader presides. Those include shooting sports and roping clinics, though the fairgrounds plans to charge the roping group $50 a month to keep steers on the grounds.

Fees won’t apply during the Routt County Fair.

The money issues stemmed from county budget constraints, and Commissioners Doug Monger and Nancy Stahoviak attended the meeting to explain their position. The county, facing a budget year in which they must dip into reserves, plans to give the fairgrounds $160,000 in 2009. Officials directed Fair Manager Jill Delay to find a way to make whatever additional money the fairgrounds will need: nearly $28,000.

In the past, the county has made up deficits.

“This all started, actually, a year ago when we wanted to look at what our actual costs were,” Delay said. “We’ve been charged as a Fair Board to try to get better about breaking even.”

The county isn’t the only source of money flowing into the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds gets Routt’s share of state lottery money, typically about $72,000 a year, for capital projects. Commissioners said they didn’t plan to change that.

They also don’t want to charge youths who raise animals on the grounds with the 4-H Town Kids Project, which started this year.

Fair Board President Jeannie Jo Logan and members Tracy Bye, Don Hayes, Linda Long, Sandy Messing and Alicia Samuelson attended Wednesday’s meeting. Many pointed out that they have children in 4-H programs. As a Fair Board, however, they must be fiscally responsible, Delay said.

She created a draft for the fee structure. It would charge the highest rates to commercial, nonresident users and the lowest rates to Routt County youth nonprofit groups, which include 4-H. Delay worked with county staff, looking at costs and fee structures in other counties to build a proposal for Routt.

Of particular concern to the county is the Multi-purpose Building, Stahoviak said. That also was a touchy subject for the audience.

“Since it was built, the Multi-purpose Building has been operating in the red. : We were told at that time that this facility is going to pay for itself,” Stahoviak said. She also said that, historically, fairgrounds events have neither paid for themselves nor made a profit.

Many who attended the meeting pointed out the 4-H contribution to the building. The 4-H clubs raised thousands of dollars, and parents helped with construction. The youths also help clean and maintain the building and grounds.

During the meeting, Stagecoach resident Rosemary Farrell said charging 4-H members to use the fairgrounds would be akin to charging the drama club to use school space. Farrell and others said the board should look at hosting other events at the fairgrounds to raise money.

“As I look at your cost for that facility, I am upset, as a taxpayer, because you have the finest facilities in Routt County, and they should be making money,” Farrell said.

Doug Wheeler, a resident and former board member, urged the panel to work hard at drawing events to the grounds.

“It can be done,” Wheeler said. “It’s all marketing. : It’s all on you guys. You need to step up.”

Fair Board members stressed that they wanted to plan and host moneymaking events. They plan to do so through the nonprofit Fair Association. The Fair Board is the board of directors for that association, which is separate from the county.

The board members expressed hope that they would find creative funding solutions. But commissioners sounded an uncertain note about future county contributions.

“When we told you we were going to subsidize $160,000, we told you we couldn’t guarantee that we’d be able to continue that,” Stahoviak said. “Our expenses are going up faster than our revenue.”

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