By Jim Magdefrau
VINTON – Plans appear to be moving forward on renovation of the Benton County Fairgrounds grandstand, after fair board officials and the Benton County Supervisors talked about the project and how to fund it.
After looking at several options, those at the meeting looked at a loan from the county to the fair of $120,000. The payback would be on a dollar to dollar match, with the county’s match coming from the LOSST (Local Option Sales and Service Tax) fund.
They met on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, at the Benton County Service Center, Vinton. Fair board members at the meeting were Dale Seeck, Kirk Steinford and Nichole McKenna.
After being asked to provide the books for the fair board, fair board members presented financial information, and how income comes from rental of the fairgrounds for events such as Boom Town, races and concerts. Income also includes beer sales.
They are working on a fund-raising letter, and are meeting with different people and companies throughout the county. They are also looking at the Benton County Community Foundation for help.
The fair board said the renovation includes new seating, replacing wooden seats with aluminum. Railing, walkway and box seat work is done, so they are focusing on the 20 rows that go up in the grandstand. It holds about 1,800 people.
The county’s LOSST fund received $114,000 in January. The total balance is about $1.7 million.
Board Chairman Tracy Seeman mentioned that the LOSST money received should be repaid, rather than just giving the fair the money.
Seeman wondered how more entities in the county are going to come and ask for money if the board just gives the money. He would have no problem loaning the money with a three-year payback plan. “It’s seems like you’re always scared of setting precedence,” Seeman observed.
Fair board members said it would take eight to 10 weeks to get the materials. They’d like to have it ready by the fair. They added that admission is free at the fair, so they try to keep the cost as low as they can.
Primmer observed about the fair, “How do you put a value on what it does for FFA and 4-H kids?” He added that he gets it that things have to be kept up. “We need to support the fair board,” Primmer stressed. “I truly believe that.” He added, “It’s a chunk of change. Can we afford to support it?”
Benton County Attorney David Thompson suggested having the supervisors appoint three members to the fair board.
Primmer proposed setting up the dollar for dollar match program with LOSST funds, up to $40,000. He added, “What that does is that it gives you the incentive to get out there and kick butt.”
Thompson also suggested a donation box at events, or a Go Fund Me page.
After discussion, they considered a five-year loan directly from the county. Primmer said they should go back to the fair board with the proposal of a five-year loan directly from the county, with a dollar for dollar match from LOSST funds to pay it back.
UPDATE: At a special meeting on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, the supervisors formally approved the loan and payback program for the grandstand, with paperwork to be worked out by Benton County Attorney David Thompson and Jennifer Zahradnik, attorney for the fair board. They looked at a $120,000 loan for five years, with a match from the county, up to $60,000. The interest rate was discussed, so it would be consistent with other loans made by the county. The board first looked at a maximum 1.5 percent.
A land use hearing was set for Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at 9:15 a.m. for Luke and Stephanie Cross, for land in Section 25, Fremont Township.
The board looked at increasing fees for the medical examiner. Fees had not been increased since 2013, which is $250 per case. Extreme cases are $500. They are looking at $300 per case. They will research what other counties are doing.
Benton County CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) requested funding for training. They deal with crisis intervention. According to their Facebook page, they are for EMS, fire, police, dispatchers, and the community if/when they need CISM to help with a tough call. Supervisor Richard Primmer talked about having a department include this organization in their budget requests, such as mental health or emergency services. ”It needs to fall under some department,” Primmer said. They are currently funded by grants, fund-raisers and donations.
Ben Turnis, information technology, discussed using APRA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds for a RACOM bill for phone system integration. This helps the courthouse phone system and sheriff’s office phone system to communicate with each other. The new phone system was approved. The cost is about $7,000.
The maximum levy hearing is March 1 at 9:30 a.m. The budget hearing is March 15 at 9:30 a.m.
The board heard a mechanical watch supply proposal from Thompson. This is for the courthouse clock. The board considered LOSST funds or ARPA funds. The clock was last repaired five years ago. The board approved paying a one-third deposit down from the current maintenance budget. The project is estimated to be $58,000.
The board approved purchase agreement(s) for permanent and temporary easements for box culvert replacement project in Florence Township on 75th Street. This is a few miles south of Highway 30. This is now a short wooden bridge. This impacts four property owners.
The board discussed damage done to a tree in a road right of way. According to Benton County Engineer Myron Parizek. Trees were trimmed and being loaded onto a truck. While doing this they hit the branch of a tree that is in the right of way. The property owner is looking for restitution for damage done to the tree. There are four other trees on the property that are also in the right of way. Parizek saw the trees as a possible hazard. Primmer questioned compensating the property owner when the tree was in right of way. Board Chairman Tracy Seeman agreed the tree is on county property. This is on 33rd Ave, near 59th Street Trail. Seeman said he would talk again with the property owner.
Parizek said they are continuing to fill positions on secondary roads.
They approved hiring Rodney Schmuecker as a full-time hire. Parizek said they are still looking for one or two mechanics.
UPDATE: Thursday meeting
A special meeting was held on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022, at the service center.
The board opened bids for the parking lot at the Benton County Service Center. They needed clarifications from the concrete bidders on the dimensions of the parking lot. After phone calls to both bidders, the matter was tabled until the chairman measured the parking lot. The board decided to rebid the project after rejecting the current bids, due to clerical errors in the current bids.
Fees were discussed for community law enforcement contracts with city officials. Sheriff Ron Tippett said letters were sent to cities in the county about raising contract prices. He said the contracts are lower than what they should be charging. It is too late to make changes for next year’s budget. Tippett will send information out on a “considerable” increase, and meet with each council to go over what’s been going on. Officials pointed out the difficulty of a small town in maintaining its own police department. Supervisor Richard Primmer stressed he has no problem providing the law enforcement contracts, but he has a problem with subsidizing them.