Friday, August 6, 2010


UPDATED:  08/07/2010 AT 09:45 A.M.

Former Stark County Commissioner Tom Harmon has contacted the SCPR relative to this blog.

His communication speaks for itself.  However, his quarrel is not with the SCPR as to his contact with state Senator Schuring, but with the senator himself as Schuring is the person who told the SCPR that Harmon had contacted him relative to the change in Ohio Revised Code Section 1711.15.

The SCPR thanks Harmon for contacting The Report with his clarification.

Here is the text of his e-mail received minutes ago:

Hello Mr. Olson. 

I would like to set the record straight that I NEVER contacted Senator Schuring relative to changing revised code for the purpose of the Stark County Commissioners gaining ownership of buildings, and the grandstand at the fairgrounds. 

My contact with Mr. Schuring was limited to support for a proposed Agricultural Arena (Show Horse Expo. Center)to be located on land at the fairgrounds.  

I have always beleived (sic) that avialable (sic) improvement funds should be used solely for enhancement of the nine County owned buildings titled to the Stark County Commissioners.  

In many cases those nine buildings have taxpayer money literally "flying out the windows" due to poor energy efficiency. Let us not forget that those buildings are owned by all residents of Stark County, but the grandstands are privately owned, and Commissioners need to focus on essential Government services in these difficult economic times.  

... .

Updated:  08/06/2010 at 12:50 PM

Stark County owns the land that the Stark County Fairgrounds grandstand sits on, but not the grandstand or any other building that sits on the grounds.

While the Fairgrounds Board has done very little over the 82 years that have passed since the grandstand was built to keep it maintained, it has deteriorated to the point of, perhaps, becoming unsafe.

In fact, a portion of the grandstand is roped off because Fair officials have determined that this area is not safe to sit in.  Last year a chuck of concrete fell off the grandstand and would have been a disaster had a person or persons been in its path.

Now the Fair Board has come through its president Jim Tressel with hat in hand asking for an immediate $85,000 to repair the elevated grandstand as follows:
  • "Remove twisted deteriorated channels and replace with a new steel tube section."
  • "Shore up the precast sections of seating and remove all of the deteriorated steel sections and install masonry block walls with four foot wide opening to support the precast sections."
  • "Clean all of the precast concrete steel bearing plates and paint."
  • "All new steel sections will need to be galvanized steel unless grandstand upper deck is sealed ... "
So says a letter from John Picard of John Patrick Picard Architect, Inc. to Jim Tressel, Stark County Fair Board President dated August 3, 2010.

Picard and Tressel appeared before Stark County commissioners on Wednesday to make an appeal for funds to do the rehab.

The SCPR believes there should be a Stark County public question as to whether or not the Grandstand rehab is an appropriate expenditure from funds of the financially strapped Stark County budget.

Why a question?

Here is the list of  The Report's reasons:
  • The Fair Board (officially, the Stark County Agricultural Society) has not been a responsible steward in terms of setting aside a reserve of monies for making repairs as needed for the 82 years of the the grandstand's existence.
  • Stark County has only about $2.1 million in its "Permanent Improvement Fund."  While "only" $85,000 is being asked for to do the first repair listed in Picard's letter, the complete letter lists four major improvements that need to be done in the immediate future.  All four are projected to cost $797,450 at today's prices.  Is the $85,000 a "get your foot in the door" operation to set a precedent so as to have Stark County government pick up the entire $797,450 cost (adjusted upward for inflation) over time?
  • Commissioner Meeks, on Wednesday, suggested that the Fair Board increase the admission fee by $1 (which would produce about $90,000 per year in additional revenue).  The SCPR likes the proposal which President Tressel seemed cool to because historically, increases like the Meeks' suggestion has resulted in a 5% to 6% drop in attendance.  Moreover, the way things are set up now, the Fair Board would have to share a percentage of the increase with the "rides portion" of the annual fair.  To Report, Tressel's response is unimaginative and needs to be rethought.  The Fair Board needs to go to the rides operators and ask them to forego a percentage of a $1 per ticket increase at least until the Board has raised enough money to take care of immediate needs as well as a buffer reserve for anticipated repairs over a 5-year prospective period.
What the Stark County commissioners should do is not give the Fair Board any money.  However, they could lend the Board the $85,000 on the condition that the Board develop a "repair and maintenance fund" through a ticket price increase or on any other visionary basis that Board members can come up with, and to agree on repayment terms and conditions with the commissioners on an $85,000 loan.

Stark County commissioners absolutely should not be putting any county permanent improvement monies into "not owned by the county" properties.

Commissioner Todd Bosley is the main proponent, as the SCPR sees it, of putting county money into unowned property.

Not quite sure why, but The Report suspects it has something to do with his current campaign (since he is not seeking re-election as commissioner) to unseat state Representative Todd Snitchler in Ohio's 50th House District.

Bosley's given reason is that when the Stark County commissioners sold the Stark County farm for $1.6 million (net), he made a commitment to advocating putting a portion of the money to use by the Stark County agricultural community.

About a year ago Bosley and then Commissioner Tom Harmon and Fair Board officials contacted state Senator Kirk Schuring about amending Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 1711.15 to empower county commissioners (across Ohio) to invest county permanent improvement funds into agricultural society- owned properties.  Schuring was successful in getting the law changed.

Here is  ORC 1711.15 as amended at Schuring's initiative: (which became law on June 18, 2010)

Sec. 1711.15.  In any county in which there is a duly organized county agricultural society, the board of county commissioners or the county agricultural society itself may purchase or lease, for a term of not less than twenty years, real estate on which to hold fairs under the management and control of the county agricultural society, and may erect suitable buildings on the real estate and otherwise improve it.
In counties in which there is a county agricultural society that has purchased, or leased, for a term of not less than twenty years, real estate as a site on which to hold fairs or in which the title to the site is vested in fee in the county, the board of county commissioners may erect or repair buildings or otherwise improve the site and pay the rental of it, or contribute to or pay any other form of indebtedness of the society, if the director of agriculture has certified to the board that the county agricultural society is complying with all laws and rules governing the operation of county agricultural societies. The board may appropriate from the county's general fund or permanent improvement fund any amount that it considers necessary for any of those purposes. (bolding emphasis added).

To the SCPR, Todd Bosley is a premier example, perhaps Stark County's finest,  of a politician who uses being in office to enhance his future political aspirations. 

But Stark Countians should balk at putting county funds into unowned property no matter how worthy the project may be.  Also, why would county commissioners want to reward a board (the Fair Board) that has not demonstrated responsible boardmanship in terms of having a sinking fund for repairs?

What follows is a video of an exchange between Architect Picard and Stark County Fair Board President Jim Tressel and county commissioners.


Moreover, here is a copy of the entire letter from Architect Picard to Stark County Fair Board President Jim Tressel.

No comments: