Commissioners hold off on fair fund request
March 3, 2022
Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday accepted a bid for purchase of a new tractor for the Wahkiakum County Fair, but they stopped short of transferring unspent funds budgeted for the tractor purchase to the fair's general expense account.
Fair officials are to meet with county Treasurer Tammy Peterson, Auditor Nicci Bergseng and other staff to study how the unspent balance may be spent and bring a recommendation back to the commission by mid-March.
Commissioners had budgeted $20,000 for a new tractor; a Longview firm bid a machine costing $13,181. Commissioners voted to accept the bid.
That left a balance of $6,818, and fair officials asked that the funds be transferred to the fair's general fund to cover expenses.
The covid-19 pandemic has adversely impacted fair fund raising activities, said fair officer Becky Thacker.
"It has started to kick in this year," Thacker said, "but it's not enough."
Discussion followed, with county officials wanting to double check figures. Treasurer Tammy Peterson commented that the fair had seen a profit in 2019 and 2020, but there was a loss in 2021.
Commissioners asked that the officials meet to study funding issues and report soon with a recommendation so that outstanding bills could be paid.
Commissioner Dan Cothren suggested looking at the bigger picture: Is the fair a financially feasible endeavor? Recent news from the legislature isn't good for the county, he said, and there may be revenue shortfalls ahead.
"We can't keep subsidizing the fair," he said. "It's not a priority. The priority is roads. I'm very concerned that we can pay for county services.
"Fair are nice, but if we can't afford it, we can't afford it.
"This is what I see; times are changing."
Thacker commented that fair fund raising has been effective in the past, and that many groups rent fairgrounds facilities during the year to put on a variety of programs.
"We're asking the county to bridge the gap," she said.