Input helping fair board move forward


By Ryan Berry

GREENVILLE — The Darke County Agricultural Society’s Board of Directors (fair board) believes it is now on the right track to find affordable barns that meet the needs of the swine, goat and dog departments. A special work session was held on Tuesday evening to hash out some of the issues the board had with its previous plan and to consider the input received at the goat and swine committee meetings.

Jason Manning, fair board director, brought up one of the ideas of expanding the original showring proposal of 20’x200’, metal, open-sided structure to an approximately 40’x200’ foot building to house the swine and a swine showring. The plan would be to eventually enclose the structure.

The goats would move to the barn that currently houses the goats.

Board members questioned if this would satisfy the grant requirements. The board has approximately $300,000 remaining from the grant. Approximately $200,000 was approved to use to repair issues with water service to the fairgrounds that was required by the City of Greenville.

Director Marla Werner noted they have not heard back from the state, but she and Laura Ahrens, fair manager, have gone through the grant application and believes the newly proposed building may satisfy the requirements. She pointed out the grant says it needs to be a Swine/Community Pavilion. “Originally, the thought was it would be enclosed, it would have meeting rooms, it would have bathrooms, have a kitchenette. Obviously, that’s the problem. That’s the scale we can’t get to financially. But it doesn’t state in here that it has to have that,” said Werner. She said this plan is closer to satisfying the requirements of the grant than the plan that was approved at the previous board meeting.

One of the issues with building this structure is the grade of the lot. According to Dave Singer, director, when they brought in a laser to survey the area, they realized there was a five-foot drop at the northeast corner of the proposed lot. Jim Zumbrink, director, was concerned there would be issues with the drop if the board built an open-sided structure.

Curtis Yount, director, warned the board to take into consideration the cost of fire suppression. The open-sided structure probably wouldn’t require the fire suppression system, but if the building is enclosed, because of the size, the building may be required to install the system. Brian Rismiller, director, suggested the board install it now if they build the pavilion.

Because state money is being used for this structure, it is believed the board would need to hire a general contractor and pay the prevailing wage. This would reduce the opportunity for using in-kind donations to help build the structure.

Mike Fearon is a supporter of the swine program and stressed he wants to see the board get it right, even if it takes two or three years. He also suggested an open-sided structure is perfect for showing hogs. Jason Brewer, who helped secure the Cargill donation, believes the newly proposed barn is closer to Cargill’s vision.

The issue with delaying the building two or three years is the timetable for using the state’s grant money. The board will need to be “moving dirt” by January 2024 in order to use the funds. If they don’t use the funds by then, the board risks having to pay back the grant money to the state. It’s unclear if they would need to pay back the $300,000 or all $500,000.

Werner suggested the board bring in several companies to bid on and determine the feasibility of building the barn in the proposed location, which would be the empty lot across from the Beef & Dairy Pavilion. The current Goat Barn would need to be cleared to make way for the new building.

Werner said, “None of us want to make the wrong decision, but you’re right, we need to do something.” Craig Bowman, director, said, “This board wants to do something. That’s why I got on this board. I hope we don’t to do it wrong, but we’ve got to do something so you guys see we are doing something.”

Several donors and parties interested in the outcome of the barns were at the meeting. Gail Overholser, owner of SISCO (Superior Implement & Supply, Co.), stressed she intends to honor their commitment, but asked the board to communicate with donors on their plans and what the needs are. She believes most donors will remain on board but need to be kept in the loop. Mike and Rachel Fearon echoed Overholser’s belief the board needs to be more open and communicate better with its donors.

According to Werner, the board recently acquired the donor details and what each part of the pavilion the donor made their pledge toward. The board previously had the pledge list but didn’t acquire the details until November. Many of the pledges were received from a third-party fundraiser that passed away. She asked the directors to go through the list and begin picking individuals they can call so the board can begin to give updates on the proposed project.

Fearon asked, “Can’t the dogs be done now?” Werner answered, “yes.” She continued, “If we flip flop what we were thinking; we’ve agreed on a location, we can scale down the original size of what the community center was going to be and make some modifications to get into the budget we can agree on. I have builder that says stop telling me what you want, tell me what you want to spend.” She believes that the builder can have something done by the fair.

The plan for the dog barn is an enclosed area for crating the dogs and possibly a covered show arena.

The board will work toward obtaining the information discussed for both barns. It’s possible the board will need to amend or rescind the original motion laying out the building plan.

To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].

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