Talk of having the Crawford County Fair Board pay costs associated with its electricity usage during fair week turned out to be just that: just talk. After announcing last fall that the Fair Board would have to find a way to pay for the high amount of electricity being consumed at Hood Park during fair week, Cuba city leaders did a 180 turn and agreed not to assess such charges this summer or to charge them for last year’s usage.
The current council stated its position that no electric charges would be issued under their watch, although that could change in the future as the council itself turns over with new elected officials.
At the January 8 Cuba City Council meeting, Alderman Don Conaway announced he had attended a meeting with Fair Board members and the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee. There was a detailed presentation on behalf of the Fair Board that revealed the positive economic impact on the city during fair week and also showed how much had been invested by 4-H and other organizations in supporting, maintaining, and improving the Hood Park facilities, specifically at the livestock barns and show ring area.
Alderman Conaway and Mayor Ray Mortimeyer were both impressed by the presentation, enough so that they returned to the full council with a recommendation that the electric fees continue to be waived. During the week of the 2012 county fair, Hood Park rang up an electric usage bill of over $10,200.
“At the time I was all in favor of charging for their electric (use),” Alderman Conaway told his fellow councilmen, “but I learned some things since then that I did not know and I would now choose to leave things as they are for the time being. That meeting changed my mind. I was all for charging and now, with more information, I’m not.”
Conaway said he just did not have a full picture of the situation until after the meeting between the Fair Board and Park and Recreation Committee. He said he went into the meeting convinced that the city should charge the Fair Board for use of electricity at Hood Park, but left the meeting feeling otherwise. “There were other things I hadn’t thought of or considered,” he explained. “I went in thinking one way but went into the meeting with an open mind, and I left thinking a different way.”
The council was unanimous in its decision not to charge for electric usage during the fair, but Mayor Mortimeyer acknowledged that the current council could not dictate what future councils might do. He said the issue could come up again in the future but was for the time being a dead issue. “As far as we’re concerned it’s a moot issue now, but we cannot speak for another council,” he said.
Faye Howard of the Fair Board thanked the council for listening to all sides before making its decision. “The meeting we called for was for your information and education, and we feel like that was accomplished. Any time you have any questions about what the Fair Board does, please come to our meetings or call one of the officers and get some answers. Our intent is to work very well and very closely with the city. We want the fair to continue to grow and be successful.”
Last October, the city council issued a $10,202.20 bill to the Fair Board that included reimbursements to the city for labor and materials from the Electric Department, use of electricity, water and sewer usage, and overtime hours for police officers who served as security during the fair. The statement presented to the Fair Board indicated that the expenses were “incurred by the city of Cuba on behalf of the Crawford County Fair” and asked that the board return a check providing payment in full “as soon as possible.”
At that time, Howard offered council members a written statement on behalf of the Fair Board that questioned the charges for city employee labor and materials on buildings that are owned by the city and also the overtime charges for its police force. Members of the executive branch of the Fair Board were in attendance at the council meeting to voice their dismay at the charges and the way in which the bill was presented. They also asked that the entire bill be waived, adding that in the future electric usage might be paid for by charging campers using electric and water hookups at Hood Park during fair week.
There were Fair Board concerns that the bill was sent to them unsigned and that no one representing the city, either council members or the mayor, had approached the Fair Board prior to the fair taking place to say such charges would be forthcoming.