September 17, 2019

Fair board supports relocation of fairgrounds

Requests more inclusion in future planning

Posted

STANDISH — After receiving $145,000 from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe at its spring 2 percent distribution, the Arenac County Board of Commissioners is continuing to pursue the acquisition of the new fairgrounds property while fair board members desire more inclusion.

The money will be used to finance the purchase over, most likely, a five-year period as part of an installment purchase agreement, county Chairman Adam Kroczaleski said.

“Doing it like that allows us to leverage the funds so that we have cash on hand to be able to match other grants that we will be applying for,” Kroczaleski said. “The tribal money was huge in allowing us to know that we could afford to purchase the property, but then financing it allows us to bring in more than just the $145,000 that we got from the tribe.”

A feasibility study on the new property conducted by Fleis & VandenBrink Engineering, based in Traverse City, has deemed that the new location along US-23 south of Standish has no environmental or traffic issues, Kroczaleski said.

The county has entered into a new contract with Fleis & VandenBrink, Kroczaleski said, to develop a preliminary site plan, detailed preliminary engineering drawings and cost estimates for the new fairgrounds.

“Once you have everything mapped out with a specific cost assigned to it, then we can sit down with the livestock committee, 4-H and the fair board and say, ‘We’ve taken people’s input, we’ve created a site plan, here’s what the different pieces cost,’” Kroczaleski said. “That’s when the nitty-gritty comes into play.”

He said it will likely take the rest of the year to finalize the site plan, pull permits and secure additional funding before any work can be done on the new property.

It will be at that point when decisions will be made regarding the responsibility of maintaining the property, whether or not current facilities will be moved to the new location and other similar details, Kroczaleski said.

In the Jan. 30 issue of the Independent, Kroczaleski said the hope was that the 2020 Arenac County Fair would be held at the new property, but now he thinks the fair will be held at the new location in the summer of 2021.

“We were hoping that we could break some ground this fall and finish up next spring, but now we won’t start till next spring,” Kroczaleski said.

He added that the fair will be held at the current location and not listed for sale until the new property is fully prepared.

“We have some interest and there are people that would like us to list the current fairgrounds for sale, but we are waiting to do that so it can be timed out so that the new location is on track to be ready, so that when we sell the current fairgrounds it’s a seamless transition and we don’t go a year without the fair,” Kroczaleski said.

While the acquisition of $145,000 is a step forward for the project, members of the fair board have raised concerns about the new property and have said over the course of the process, they have felt out of the loop.

Up to this point, the fair board has only been a part of one meeting with Fleis & VandenBrink regarding the proposed placement of certain facilities on the new property during the feasibility study.

“It has been very slim information,” fair board member Danny Miehls said. “As frustrated as we get, a lot of times the slim information is not that they don’t tell us anything but it is also because they don’t have anything to tell us.”

While Miehls added that the past few months have been better as far as receiving updates, fair board President Kim Karpinski said there have been a number of occasions when members are made aware of updates in the project from persons or groups other than the board of commissioners.

“When we do hear something, we usually hear it through the grapevine,” Karpinski said. “How do we embrace this project feeling like we are part of it when we are the last ones being told? We want to have the community stand behind us. Well, how do we say, ‘Hey, stand behind us, this is happening,’ when we don’t know what they’ve already heard at the coffee shop?”

She explained that it has been a challenge seeking donations and support from community members who have questions regarding the future of the fair that board members are unable to answer.

Kroczaleski said some questions don’t need answers yet, explaining that the new fairgrounds’ operation, maintenance and other details will be discussed at a later point, but for now, he feels it is too early to make those decisions.

“Some of it is putting the cart before the horse,” Kroczaleski said. “Asking who is going to cut the grass before the property is even built is premature. Yes, it is a good question, but let’s wait until we actually have it built and ready to go and we are drafting a lease agreement. That is when that discussion should be taking place.”

Going forward, Kroczaleski said the fair board will be involved in the formation of the site plan and will be meeting with Fleis & VandenBrink.

Overall, Kroczaleski said he feels the result of this process will be an improved fairgrounds for the community to enjoy, and it has the potential to provide the area with a large enough venue to host large events for years to come.

“It is my home, and being on the county board allows me the opportunity to try and do something to better the community and help people and make Standish a better and thriving place for people to live,” Kroczaleski said. “I want to see my hometown continue to be a place where people want to live and raise their families.”

Members of the fair board said they also see a new and improved fairgrounds as a benefit to the community.

“I don’t think there is anyone here that is majorly opposed to the fair moving,” Miehls said. “Everybody that has major opposition is more because of the lack of information and the lack of the ability of knowing how it is going to happen.”

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