Plans for funding an expansion at the Wyandotte County Fairgrounds did not find enough support Thursday night, July 17, at a Unified Government budget workshop.
The budget workshop discussion for funding during 2015 took place only a week before this year’s Wyandotte County Fair, scheduled July 22 to 26 at 13700 Polfer Road, (near K-7 and Polfer Road), Kansas City, Kan. Hours for the county fair are 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday. For information, visit www.wycofair.com.
The fairgrounds has plans to build a shooting park for trap shooting and skeet shooting, pistol range, training facilities, a recreational vehicle park, as well as walking trails and a pocket park, and an indoor event building for concerts and receptions.
The fairgrounds includes about 109 acres at the 137th and Polfer Road location, where there are currently five buildings.
Last November, officials of the Wyandotte County Fair Association asked the UG for a bond issue of about $1.7 million to complete the second phase of its master plan. It also asked for an increase in the fairgrounds’ budget to $250,000 for operations and to make the bond payments.
During the November meeting, fair association officials pointed out they had received $169,000 annually from the UG before 2007, but that was reduced to zero during the economic downturn and then was brought up to about $78,000 for the current year.
Fair association officials said at the earlier meeting that they expected revenues from rentals to help build their reserves and help reduce their annual budget in future years.
Besides the shooting sports facility, the priorities on this expansion list included heating and air for the exhibition building, construction of more restrooms, a snack bar, banquet kitchen, and seating for about 40. Among the other items that would have been funded were utility extensions, lighting, security fencing, entry road, sprinklers, the walking trail, athletic fields, equipment storage and camping facility.
The plan estimated revenue of almost $250,000 a year from rentals and use fees of these additions, once they are completed and running.
Commissioner Hal Walker said that it was always the UG’s intention to do something in the future for the fairgrounds, and that had been expressed in a memorandum of understanding some years ago, when the old fairgrounds site was sold to Schlitterbahn.
“Perhaps people here want to see it disappear or are willing to do that,” Walker said. “I am not of that group.”
He said the commission now needs to take responsibility for UG actions that took place in previous years. He was in favor of restoring the fair to the funding that it once had.
UG officials tabled the issue. They discussed coming back in October or November of this year, after taking more time to examine the details of the expansion proposal, and discussing it again.
“We don’t have the money to support it without raising taxes,” Commissioner Angela Markley said about the expansion project. She said there wouldn’t be money for it in 2015 or 2016.
Commissioner Ann Murguia said there were other higher priorities for the UG, as shown by a community survey. The fairgrounds was not on the survey that was taken during the past year.
Commissioner Brian McKiernan said the UG this year has been working on structurally balancing the county side of the budget, and this could swing it out of balance.
Commissioner Jim Walters said he had looked at other county fairgrounds, and that private donations had been received to build some of their structures.
Then, a proposal was made by Commissioner Hal Walker to add $50,000 to the 2015 funds for the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds currently receive about $77,000 plus some other funding for prizes, which totals close to $100,000, according to UG officials.
A straw vote on the added funding lost 6-3. Voting no were Commissioners Walters, Markley, Murguia, Gayle Townsend, Brian McKiernan and Tarence Maddox. Voting yes were Commissioners Walker, Jane Philbrook and Mike Kane.
Commissioner Kane voted for the extra appropriation, however, he said during discussion that the fair needs to be accountable for how it spends its money.
Commissioner Philbrook, who supported extra funding for the fair, said perhaps the UG could find extra money by looking into the money that is spent by letting employees take cars home from work. “I suggest we look into that if we need money,” she said.
To see a description of the proposed fairgrounds additions, visit http://www.wycofair.com/documents/fairgrounds_shooting_park.pdf.