GREENVILLE — The Darke County Fair Board voted to contribute $3,000 toward a feasibility study for a potential $1.8 million construction project at its monthly meeting Wednesday night.
The Swine Committee, Goat Committee and Darke County Barrow Boosters each have pledged an equivalent amount toward the total $12,000 cost.
The study, conducted by independent consulting firm Fair Funding LLC, would help determine whether enough support exists in the community to fund a new 28,000-square foot barn for the swine department. The current swine barn has experienced structural and electrical issues, as well as issues regarding space, according to Jason Brewer, a representative of the Swine Committee who addressed the fair board during Wednesday’s meeting.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about long-term plans for the barn,” Brewer said.
The swine department has been growing steadily, according to Brewer, and is on the verge of outgrowing its current 17,000-square foot facility.
The goat department, meanwhile, currently occupies an 11,000-square foot space, and would move into the former swine barn after the new facility is constructed.
Brewer presented a plan for the new barn created by Bruns Construction Enterprises of St. Henry, a project slated to cost between $1.5 and $1.8 million. He then introduced Matt Hughes of Fair Funding LLC. Hughes’ firm, which has completed projects in Findlay, St. Marys and Portage County would help solicit donations for the project.
“I like working with county fairs,” Hughes said. “Everybody’s good people. They’re honest. It either works or it doesn’t.”
The first step, according to Hughes, is to complete the $12,000 study. Hughes’ firm would distribute questionnaires to people throughout the county, asking what sort of projects at the Darke County Fairgrounds they feel should be prioritized, whether they would support the proposed swine barn construction project (and at what level) and what community members they think should be part of a committee that would supervise those efforts.
The board voted unanimously to approve the $3,000 expenditure, as well as to form a committee including at least three fair board members to supervise the project. Hughes will return to present his findings to the fair board once the study has been completed.
Some attendees at the meeting seemed blindsided by the proposal. Amy Rice of the Darke County Dog Committee asked why the dog department, as well as other departments dealing with space issues and deteriorating buildings, had not been approached prior to the meeting about possibly contributing toward the cost of the study. The Dog Committee has been attempting to raise funds for a new barn for at least a year.
“I’m not opposed to this,” Rice said. “But we’re not going to set aside what we’ve done over the last year so that you all can run ahead of us.”
Hughes said should the Dog Committee ultimately decide to contribute toward the cost of the feasibility study, its project would be added to those for which his firm would help solicit funds, should the fair board decide to move forward.
Rice said the Dog Committee would attempt to hold a special meeting in the next week in order to consider the proposal.
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