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Park Board/Fair Board Discussions Ongoing

$800,000 New Diamond A Possibility?

Several members of the Moultrie-Douglas Fair Board, along with other interested Arthur residents, attended the regular meeting of the Arthur Park Board on Monday, August 8. All members of the park board were present, with the exception of Mark Krutsinger. They were Dan Miller, Andy Monts, Elliott Tinnion and Kevin Strong. Park employee J.J. Carter was also there. President of the Board Dan Miller opened the meeting, bypassing the agenda order, Miller addressed the people in the audience that had asked to speak.

Terry Ferchow, former fair board member, began by saying “After everything I have read in the paper and all the hearsay, why are you against the fair, even though you say you aren’t trying to push the fair out?” “You are wanting to build diamonds and I understand that, I’m all for that, but I can’t see pushing out a 91 year old fair to do something else.” “And,” continued Ferchow, “I don’t know what the answer is.” Miller replied, “I can tell you the answer, we are not trying to push the fair out. That is not the intent at all. We are wanting to see more activity down at the fairgrounds. We want to have a fair, a vendor event, whatever we want. We want things to happen down there. As far as ball diamonds, we have went and had an architect draw up drawings for a ball diamond and $800,000 or something like that is about the cost of it. So, we are not sure what is going on there. As far as the tractor pull barrier or whatever, if you guys would sit down and speak to the city there is ground back there where the lagoons are at and it runs east and west and there is also north and south ground back there in the back. A tractor pull area can be put back there.”

Ferchow then asked, Then the city owns the ground back there where the lagoons are?” Monts answered “yes, where the lagoons are.” Ferchow then stated “A concern to me would be where do you want to park the trucks that come? When I got on back in 1972 or 73 and went through the 80’s and 90’s, it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger, the tractor pull I’m talking about, it went from the single axle truck hauling a tractor in here to 105 foot semi’s and the tailgates aren’t even down on them yet. There was no place to park. The fair board won’t have anywhere to park them. That has to be a concern.”

Miller responded, “There may not be any space to even have one.” Ferchow asked, “Then the ball diamonds will take the place of the tractor pull?” “Yes sir, take up the whole thing,” Miller said.

Ferchow then asked, “Well what do you want to do with ‘their’ buildings?” Miller said, “Like the Merchant’s Building, one thing we visualize, we want to put log front siding on it with aluminum doors in front and re-vamp it on the inside and have something we can rent out for events or whatever, that’s a thought.”

Terry asked, “And the cattle barn and sheep barn?” Miller replied “We have no particular needs for the cattle barn. It is kind of specialized, and with the flooring in there and the way the gates are put in, they still need that for the fair.”

Ferchow stated he heard they were going to rent the buildings to the fair. Miller responded, “We are negotiating that right now. As for the rental fees it looks like it would be just like anybody else, if they wanted to come down and rent a ball diamond or whatever, it is a $250 fee.”

Terry said, “So that would be the fee for the whole thing?” Monts answered, “No, it depends on the amount that…” Ferchow interrupted with “So with the fair if you want to rent the Horticulture Bldg., Merchants Building, Cattle…” Miller interrupted with “No, no, not the fair, that’s separate events.” “Then the fair wouldn’t pay any fee to have the fair down there? ask Ferchow. Miller said “We are working on all of that, we don’t have an answer for you. But whatever the fee is it will be fairly minimal, but the one thing you have to realize, if you live in Arthur Park District you are paying park district taxes. Arthur Park District taxes cannot go for any expenses for the fair. Has it in the past? Yes, it is legal…probably not.”

Ferchow states, “When that park was first given from the Jurgens to the park board there was not to be even one candy bar sold down there. But now you sell popcorn and everything else. When you rent the ball diamonds out, that money comes back to the park. So, you’re getting money off of that, right?”

Miller responded, “Right, like when you have ball tournaments?” Ferchow answers, “That’s what makes the park money.” Miller came back with, “Now like this month, we had a $7,000 utility bill down there this month.” Ferchow says, “I can go down there at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and the lights are on. My gosh, I can look out my window and see them. You have two people down there playing pitch and catch with the lights on.” Miller answered, “It shouldn’t be.” Monts said there’s a system in place for the lighting, but it got hit by lightning. Just like everything else in the world, it is on back order. We will be able to shut the lights off and on with our phones.

Mark Yoder stated, “Why don’t you use what you have first and then show a need. You always say you want to build another ball diamond like $800,000. That’s a lot of money. I’m just a resident and a taxpayer and there is yet to be a major ball tournament in town here yet this year.”

Monts replied, “Part of that is due to lack of facilities. We don’t have room.” Yoder stated, “Lack of facilities, you have two ball diamonds down there.” Monts replied, “They aren’t big enough.” Yoder questioned, “They’re not big enough?” Monts continued, “The softball diamond.” Mark asked about the high school diamond and J.J. Carter responded, “You can’t host a state tournament on it.”

Ferchow interjected, “Let me butt in here, this plan you got, is it going to re-vamp or is it just going to be one ball diamond?” Miller says, “We are going to re-vamp the whole thing and make it useable.” “Ferchow ask, “Is it going to look like Rantoul or Mattoon that is coming in?” Miller stated, “It would sure be nice, but that probably won’t happen.”

Yoder said, “There isn’t enough ground.” Miller said they want to use what they have down there. Yoder added, “There isn’t enough ground down there for you guys to do that and have a tractor pull track, I can tell you that right now. You are going to shove the fair out.”

Miller stated, “You haven’t had a tractor pull in the last 3-4 years.” Yoder interjected, “That is because of weather and Covid- It was called off by the ITPA.” Miller responds, “I went down to the fairgrounds last week and the tractor pull area was not ready for a tractor pull this year. It has tall weeds up in the fence. They did not grow there in a two-week period. The track itself was not ready for a fair pull. It looked homeless down there.” Yoder responded, “Yes it was, they had it prepared and the day before they were working on it.” Miller came back, “The track itself maybe but not the arena area.” Yoder added, “It is just a shame you cannot work out something.” Ferchow said, “Are you going to have to raise taxes to pay for this thing?” Monts said he thinks this ball diamond thing has really gotten out of hand. “That is something you guys (park board) started working on before I got on the board. It was just a proposed use of that space there, there is nothing set in stone that a ball diamond is going there. It was something the board looked at. Yes, it is a possibility, but it’s not like we said we want to put a ball diamond in so we need to get rid of the fair. That’s not it at all.”

Terry said, “We don’t have enough hotel space to have a major ball diamond.” Miller, “That would give us three diamonds,” Ferchow, “Where are you going to put the people that are coming for three days? Carter said they can go to Arcola. Miller, “I don’t think we can hold a State Tournament, can we?” “No, but we can host bigger tournaments. They hosted a 16-team tournament in 2 ½ days.” stated Carter. Carter did not say where this was held.

Terry said, “But not all of the people drive home. Are they all around the area people?” Carter replied, “No. Where do they stay anyway, they go to Arcola and Tuscola to stay. We don’t have a motel.” “Maybe someone would build a motel if we had things being done to fill a motel,” added Monts.

Ferchow concluded “I guess my concern is what I hear of trying to get rid of the fair.” Miller added, “There is a lot of bad hearsay going on. The intention is not to get rid of the fair, but to have more activities down there. If you ask somebody, they don’t say it is Jurgens Park necessarily, it is the fairgrounds. We want to have events down there, and I will give you an example: Two years ago, or whenever, when the fair got changed that put it at the end of ball tournament season or summer league. That meant we couldn’t host anything here at our diamonds so we couldn’t make any money off of hosting those tournaments.

We went to the fair board, got this idea that this Amish guy or whatever his background was, to have an animal show, sale or something down at the fairgrounds. We gave them the dates, no answer, no answer, no answer. The guy came back to us and said it was too late, he was moving it to Missouri. We lost the chance to make our money back because they (fair board) didn’t give us an answer. But then when they did, it was no. They said it would interfere with Rachel at the sale barn. We checked with Rachel and she said everything was good there, no interference.”

Ferchow said, “The state kind of sets up when you are going to have your fair. They like to do it the same time every year. At that point in time, they couldn’t get the carnival and/or the tractor pull classes you like. We sat over there for four days waiting on dates from somebody else or another fair to say ‘well, we don’t want those dates anymore.”

Miller stated, “We totally understand that, but it’s going to have to shift or whatever. Then we lost money and it’s like our attorney says, it’s on our ground, it’s on park ground.”

Ferchow asked, “So here’s another question? So, you are saying these are the dates you can have the fair and that’s it?”

Miller said, “No, that’s not what I said. You guys come and say this is when we need to have the fair and we will accommodate.

Marty Yeakel asked, “Are you planning on charging the fair board for use the week of the fair?” Carter responded, “There has to be something like there is now, cost sharing thing. It has always been that way, sometimes based on other stuff.”

Miller responded, “We are in the middle of negotiating this thing, and our next meeting is September 12. So, for us to give you an answer we can’t do it until after September 12.”

“In years past has the fair had an agreement to pay the utilities for the whole month?” ask Yoder. J. J. Carter responded, “With very much argument, with very much argument.” Erica Carter asked, “But did they pay?” Carter said, “Finally.”

Yeakel had another question, “I know Doris has mentioned this, but it never comes up in conversation. What about the Woman’s Club stand and is there still a Lions Club stand out there?” Miller said, “We haven’t had any issues with those people.”

Yeakel responded, “Ok.” Miller continued, “Do you want straight answers? Here’s how it works. We spend half an hour at every park board meeting discussing issues with the fair board down there and it makes it hard for us to retain park board members because it is a constant hassle back and forth. Like I told our attorney, we are all (park board) in agreeance, we are tired of the tail wagging the dog.”

Marty says, “It just seems to me that the fair board built those buildings, and have maintained them all these years as has the Woman’s Club and Lions Club so I’m not quite sure that I understand why there is a difference. Of course, we want the Woman’s Club stand to continue.” Miller interjected, “Yes, we all want it to continue, it is a great organization, just like the Lions Club. But for that to continue the fair has to continue. It has gotten misconstrued that we’re trying to do away with the fair, we are only trying to enhance the thing. They have a building down there that has mold in it for what, four years? Nothing’s happened except the fan runs 24/7 on park utilities.”

Jason Yeakel, former fair board member, addressed the park board in regards to the gentleman who wanted to have an animal show or sale. “My understanding, as I recall, the recommendations were you not host the animal sale. It was not a flat no and we provided many reasons.” Miller said, “But the date was too late after you sent that.” Jason went on to say, “The seller was not registered with the state or had not informed the state veterinarian he was going to have a sale. We made our contacts and all we told you was we make the recommendation; we didn’t tell you that you couldn’t. We just said what could happen. Here’s the potential if you have any type of flu, swine flu and it contaminates the floor down there, we don’t have a fair. I don’t believe we told you you couldn’t, we recommended you don’t. I don’t know what you were going to make from the sale, and I apologize for your loss, but you guys are a taxing body, if you need funds, you can do that by appropriating funds, without putting anything to a vote.” Yoder added, “You are not in the business of making money.” Miller added, “You’re right.” Yoder said, “You are a taxing body and all of us pay your bills.” Miller said, “And that is a fact and that’s why…” Yoder said, “So, if it takes x amount of dollars to the lights for example that are on, that’s an expense. You’re not in the business to make money unless you want to try and raise $800,000. You are not to hoard money.” Miller stated, “That would be nice if we had some money to hoard, but we don’t.”

Jason Yeakel stated, “There were two years of Covid and the fair operates under state guidelines. When the state tells you here’s what the Covid guidelines are, we lost money too. Third Saturday Market, Antique Show, those things we were having in the building lost money too. They had to cancel them because of the Covid restrictions. So now they have moved on to other venues. I just think to assume control of those buildings, to just step in and use that authoritarian kind of deal, I think it is wrong and it reflects poorly on this community; and that you guys sit up here and think that is an acceptable move toward the partnership we have had since 1952 on that land. Now if you guys want to, and if you have the power to do that, just know you are going to have to ask the taxpayers again, here’s the insurance we have to pay on these buildings, here’s what it costs, here’s the repairs. The fair board currently takes care of.”

Fair Board President Stephanie Alexander, “And I hear you say we haven’t fixed our buildings, but we were in the process when this whole thing blew up. So, I don’t like to hear that we weren’t fixing our buildings because we were in the process. We haven’t been renting out our buildings because of Covid and you were charging us to rent out our own buildings.”

Mayor Rod Randall was in attendance and answered Mark Yoder’s question, does the village still subsidizes the pool for all summer and in the fall would reimburse the park for any loss? Mayor Randall stated, “There was an agreement years ago and it was based on a percentage of the loss. It no longer exists today.” Ferchow explained how this agreement came to fruition to get the pool built and up and running.

Doris Elmore asked the board, “How in all good conscience can you take the buildings away from the fair board when we built them and maintained them with fair funds and state rehab for all these years. We have maintained them. We haven’t done anything to the Merchants Building because we didn’t know what was going to happen. So, we have done a lot of investigating on costs and we always back down because we aren’t sure. How can you in all good conscience take those when they are ours just because they are on the land that was given to you, then turn around and charge us? That just kind of bugs me a little bit. I know the law says it sits on your land and all, but how can you in all good conscience do that? We bust our rear ends to bring a fair, and it’s not just the Arthur fair, it’s a dual county fair and we work from year to year. You know that, your father-in-law (Duane Oye) was on the board. How can you sit there and do that?”

There was no response to Doris’ question.

Teri Malin remarked, “I would just like to say the rest of the board members here would like to say something, but our lawyer told us not to. That is why we aren’t speaking, otherwise we would say a lot more.”

Miller stated, “That’s fine.” Monts said, “We wanted to have these discussions last October with no lawyers for quite some time and we ended up here.” Miller stated, “We didn’t want to have any lawyers involved.” Stephanie remarked, “We didn’t know you wanted to have this discussion.” Malin said we were told we had to get a lawyer. Miller came back with the statement, “That has been a real problem. Like Stephanie has been on and off and it hasn’t been fair to her. Whatever the ladies name was from Lovington received a certified letter from our attorney the end of October. J.J. stated it was Sarah Reedy, former president, who received the letter. She resigned and we thought that was because she got the letter. That is an assumption on our part.” Monts stated, “That is when it all started, back then with negotiations and nothing happened.”

Teri Malin stated, “She just resigned at the end of her term.” Elmore followed with, “She just didn’t seek re-election as president, she is still on the board.” Monts said they re-sent the letter and Stephanie said it was at the February park board meeting she first found out about it.

Miller asked those in attendance, “So if the Merchants Building was remodeled like I said with a new facia and entry doors, and made into a banquet hall or pitching cages/batting cages whatever, would you be alright with that instead of letting it set empty and wait for the fair?”

Yeakel said, “I’ll answer that. First place it sat empty because of the situation you put the fair board in and Covid for the last two years.”

Conversation continued regarding cost-sharing between the two boards. Both boards thanked each other for their attendance.

New Business:

1. A motion was passed to approve the annual financial report.

2. Action was taken to approve the cost of infield diamond material, not to exceed $8,500.

3. A lengthy discussion was held regarding the refund to the Rotary club from the recent fireworks. The Rotary gives the park district a $5,000 deposit on top of the $250 rental fee to host the event at the fairgrounds. This deposit is paid to ensure the grounds are left in good condition (no trash left), damage to the grounds, etc. Following this year’s event, the grounds were not left in satisfactory condition. Therefore, the park board decided to deduct $750 from the deposit.

General discussion was held regarding raising the current rental fee of $250. The board wants to examine their Ameren bill before a decision is made.

Next meeting will be held on Monday, September 12, at 6 p.m. at the Community Building.

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