New fairgrounds gets the green light from commissioners

  • 6-5-2012

By: Dave Mast - Holmes Bargain Hunter

The promise of a new beginning for the Holmes County fairgrounds became a reality Monday, June 25 with the flick of a pen.

The Holmes County commissioners signed off on an Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) Clean Ohio grant that awards a total cash amount of $559,437.90 to the Holmes County Park District. The grant will be used by the park district to purchase the current site of the fairgrounds off state Route 39 near Millersburg from the Holmes County Agricultural Society. The agricultural society will in turn use the money to acquire land at the intersection of state Route 39 and County Road 301, the future home of the county fair.

The grant carries a local, non-cash match of $187,500, which was made though the donation of land owned by the county at the current fairgrounds.

Monday’s signing by commissioners marks the end of a process beginning with the original grant application more than two years ago, park district director Jen Halverson said.

Kerry Taylor, Agricultural Society president, said the Clean Ohio grant has finally secured the fairground’s new home. The Agricultural Society broke ground at the new site in a ceremony April 17, while the park district and ODOD were still hammering out details on the grant. Construction is under way on the William T. Baker Family building, which will house Share-A-Christmas.

“It’s very rewarding to know it is finally going to be a reality,” Taylor said. “The Clean Ohio grant is a very key element toward completion of the project.”

However, Taylor said, it is but the first step in the larger project of turning 80 acres of farmland into a multiple use facility capable of drawing in events year-round. The new site is owned by businessman Paul Weaver, who has agreed to turn over the land for the cost of bringing sewer and water utilities to the site. The utilities will serve a church, also located on the land, which Weaver has helped build.

The water utility lines have been installed and a final cost has yet to be established, Taylor said. However, the price tag is expected to come in at approximately $530,000, Taylor said.

That will leave the Agricultural Society with perhaps $20,000 to get started on a project that could cost anywhere between $3 million to $4 million. A capitol campaign involving local 4-H clubs, businesses and donors will soon be under way to start raising the funds, Taylor said.

Grants from the Clean Ohio fund are used to purchase land that in turn will be allowed to be developed as green space. In the case of the current fairgrounds, it will revert to green space.

Under terms of the Clean Ohio grant, the fair can continue at its current location through 2014.

The park district will officially own the land but will be very restricted in what it can do with it, Halverson said. No new permanent structures can be built there, and most of the old buildings will have to be removed. The park district plans to keep the current fairboard offices for its restroom facilities. Playing fields may be developed by the park district, Halverson said, but it cannot schedule or promote events using the fields.

“The wording (in the grant) is passive recreation,” Halverson said. The land must be accessible to the public with activities “not controlled or instructed” by the park district.

“It can be a great place to go out and throw the frisbee, throw the football,” Halverson said.

A $200,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant that was also sought in the purchase of the current fairgrounds is officially off the table, Taylor said. Problems arose with the FEMA grant after it was found that the money was specified for some of the same purposes as the Clean Ohio grant, resulting in duplication.

Discussions to move the fairgrounds out of the Killbuck Creek floodplain have been going on since at least 1969, when floodwaters washed away most of the fairgrounds.

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