County board OKs $25,000 for study of fair buildings
January 25, 2018
By RALPH ANSAMI
Bessemer — A lengthy debate over whether to apply for a matching grant for window replacements on a fairgrounds building led to a compromise vote by the Gogebic County Board of Commissioners Wednesday.
Board members weren’t comfortable with matching a possible $25,000 grant from the state with $25,000 in county money for 113 new windows in the cattle barn.
Instead, they agreed to appropriate $25,000 to be used for a structural study of the fairgrounds buildings.
Commissioner Tom Laabs, of Ironwood, said placing new windows in a building that might not be structurally sound isn’t a good idea. “Spend the money elsewhere,” he said, suggesting the bleachers might need to be replaced.
For another fair building, a grant was received by the fair board and windows were replaced, but the floor was still buckling and “you could throw a cat through the door,” Laabs said.
Commissioner Jeff Wasley, of Ironwood, agreed a study needs to be done and he said the board shouldn’t apply for a grant if it is just going to turn it down in the end.
Commissioners agreed the fair buildings owned by the county have been neglected for too many years and some are in bad shape.
Commissioner Joe Bonovetz, of Bessemer, said the $25,000 likely wouldn’t be enough for a full study, but would be a start.
Commissioner Jim Oliver, of Ironwood, said estimates might come in as high as $1 million in suggested repairs for 100-year-old structures. He suggested everyone involved not try for “Cadillac” buildings.
Laabs said the goal should be to have “structurally sound” buildings. Some aren’t now, he said.
Wasley said the buildings should be repaired and maintained by the county board, since they are owned by the county.
At a few points in the meeting, a special millage was mentioned as a possible source of funding.
“That building’s sound,” fair board member Tom Hampston said, referring to the cattle barn involved in the proposed grant. “It’s not falling down in the next 10 years.” He urged the board to fix the buildings.
The county board voted 7-0 in favor of Laabs’ motion to not seek the grant, but set aside $25,000 for a study, probably getting the money from the Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund.
Hampston urged the county board to fill a vacant part-time fair secretary’s job soon. The board has been considering how to fill the vacant job at its committee level, but Hampston said someone should be taking care of fair business over the phones now.
He suggested hiring a contracted person who could also promote using the fairgrounds at other times of the year, rather than for just the four days of the fair. There has been some extra use of the buildings, but there could be more, he said.
The board has been considering possibly filling the fair secretary’s job with more than one person.
Hampston was told the county board might have a solution to the vacancy at its next meeting on Feb. 14.
The board observed a moment of silence Wednesday for Bob Morin, of Ironwood, who died this week. He previously served for six years on the county board.