Fair board’s dog barn plan has opposition


By Ryan Berry


GREENVILLE — Several members of the Darke County Agricultural Society’s board of directors seemed to be on the same page with moving forward with a new dog barn/community/education center, but the plan didn’t sit well with at least one person in the audience at the regular meeting of the board on April 5.

Board treasurer, Marla Werner, discussed the capitol grant and where the board stands on getting answers from the Ohio Department of Agriculture on how the funds can be used. She reported they have been advised to seek an extension. Of the 20 fairs that received similar funding, only a handful have been able to use their money so far. Most are experiencing the same issues as Darke County because of the pandemic and have had to change plans because opportunities have changed.

Werner suggested the board move forward with Phase II of the plan that was approved by the board. Phase II is the construction of a community/education center and dog barn. In addition to housing the dog department during the fair, the community center would be available to the community throughout the year and would include a restroom, kitchenette and storage.

The fair board’s attorney, Chance Cox, shared a phone call he had with Cargill regarding the funding they are providing. “It was a really good call, and the biggest takeaway was, in discussing the community center in detail, they were fully supportive of it. Felt like it fit their corporate mission in terms of education, 4-H. The biggest kind of thing that I gleaned was feel free to use some or all of it toward that community center if that’s the board decision,” said Cox. From the conversation, Cox explained that Cargill didn’t look at one species over another.

Werner said, “With that said, we have a motion on the table. I know we talked about changing it, but the first part of that motion was to move forward with a community center that would, during the fair, would be a place for the dogs.” Vice President Jim Zumbrink added, “I think what we discussed was going with Plan 2 and that’s what was discussed with Cargill.” Werner suggested the board move forward with getting bids and Zumbrink said, “I think that’s where we are headed.”

Director Curtis Yount asked, “How can you start something if you don’t have any plans?” Werner explained some of that was discussed prior to Yount being appointed to the board. She asked for a work session so they can begin pulling the plans together. Zumbrink added, “Basically, we know what size the building is going to be. It’s going to be 70’x170’. That’s the max we can do.” He continued, “We had this stuff laid out last summer and it got killed.”

A question from the audience then sparked a lengthy debate, “What about the swine?” Werner responded, “We haven’t even discussed that since the last meeting.” Zumbrink said that by moving forward with Phase II of the plan they can satisfy three groups. “We can satisfy our grant, we can satisfy Cargill and we can satisfy the dogs,” he said. The audience member shot back, “And you’re not going to satisfy the swine who started all of this – needs the building, needs the space.”

The previous work session was brought up where some members of the swine department were willing to wait a few years for a building to make sure they get what they want and that it is right for the fairgrounds. At that meeting, Mike Fearon stated he wanted to see the board get it right even if it takes two or three years. That plan called for an open-sided structure that could eventually be enclosed.

The audience member was adamant the current home for the swine is unsafe. However, at the previous work session, the fair board agreed to look at ways to relieve some of the issues in the building by moving some of the stalls outside the building and moving the show arena around.

The swine barn proponent claimed the hogs bring in the most money to the fair. Director Heidi May asked, “We are still short on building the barn though. Where are we coming up with the money?” The argument was made that if the fair board had continued with the original plan, they would have had the money, but people quit giving. Director Dave Singer shot back, “There was never near enough or close to the money. We’ve never been anywhere near close to the money.”

Director Jason Manning was working on pricing an open-sided building but has not been able to get an estimate. President Greg Pearson estimated the cost of the building to be approximately $1.5 million without electricity. “You’re probably pushing $2 million,” said Pearson.

They believe they can build the community center and dog barn for less than $1 million. When asked if they had the money for that, not including the swine money, Werner answered, “Yes.”

Werner explained the board doesn’t have the money to build a swine barn and even if they sat on the money they don’t know how long it would take to raise the rest of the money and they would lose the grant money.

Zumbrink was adamant the money raised by the hog and goat committees not be used for the proposed community center and dog barn. “Cargill, they said they wanted an education center, this would work fine for that from the way I understood it. We just sit here and keep arguing and arguing and we get nothing done,” he said.

Werner added, “We know we’re not going to please everybody. We have to do what’s best for us right now and what we can do or we sit on it for how many more years, sitting on all of this money to get to a goal we may not obtain.”

The board hopes to hold a work session on Tuesday, April 11, 7:30 p.m. to discuss this issue.

In other business, the board voted to offer an option for livestock and dog open show exhibitors. Many exhibitors were required to purchase a $25 exhibitor pass on top of entry fees for a one-day show. Depending on the species, the fees and pass could reach as high as $100 for an individual who only came to the fair for one day. Werner’s proposal was to waive the requirement of an exhibitor pass for junior fair participants and institute a $10 exhibitor fee per species. If the exhibitor is coming for one day, they would still be required to pay the gate admission fee. If an exhibitor shows one species, their cost would be $17 plus entry fees. This is restricted to livestock and dog open show exhibitors only because of the additional entry fees.

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

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