Fair Board returns nearly $20,000 in donations


By Ryan Berry


GREENVILLE — Nearly $20,000 has been returned to donors who were expecting to have a new swine barn built at the Darke County Fairgrounds. The board voted to return the funds previously, but failed to release the amounts and the donors. After a records request, the board released the information.

The Daily Advocate/Early Bird first reported the June 7 meeting of Agricultural Society’s Board of Directors (fair board) when the initial request for a donation to be returned was made.

Reagan Brewer, a junior at Tri-Village High School, requested that $1,600 be returned because the board had not met the expectation that a new swine barn would be built. At that meeting, Brewer explained that when she won Grand Champion Market Hog in 2019, she pledged half of the money she earned from the sale. She made good on the pledge in December 2019. She continued, “Since that time, much has happened, and the fair board has made a choice to go in a different direction with funds pledged during that campaign. I don’t fully understand all the decisions that were made, but I do understand I gave money for a specific purpose and that is no longer the plan to spend the money I gave for the new swine barn.”

Vice President Jim Zumbrink and Treasurer Marla Werner suggested at the time the board would need to meet with their attorney to discuss the legality of returning a donation.

After Brewer’s request for the return of her donation, several individuals and a business also requested their donation be returned.

Former Fair Board President Doug Martin and his wife, Beth, had $6,000 returned. Also formally requesting their donations be returned were Jason and Amanda Brewer, $2,000, Trey Manuel, $5,000 and Graves Fearon Agency, $5,000. The total returned that was originally earmarked for a new swine barn was $19,600.

Some of the individuals on the list have spoken at previous board meetings in favor of using funds from the state grant and the Cargill donation to build a new swine barn. Although the fair board has not signed any contracts or announced bids, they have expressed their willingness to move forward with building a new Community/Education Center that would double as a dog barn during the fair. Funds from the state grant and the donation from Cargill, as well funds raised by the dog committee, would be used for the construction.

The fair board maintains its commitment to build a new swine barn, but has pointed out the funds necessary to build aren’t available. They were seeking over $2 million in funding to build both buildings, but the campaign had fallen well short of that goal.

At a previous meeting, Zumbrink explained by building the proposed Community/Education Center, the board can make progress, “We can satisfy our grant, we can satisfy Cargill and we can satisfy the dogs.”

In a previous work session 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.

After facing opposition to the Community/Education Center, Director Heidi May tried to clarify the fair board’s dilmna with a swine barn, “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.”

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

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