4-H groups want sports equipment to be moved

5/7/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

When Finney County agreed in January to an annual lease of the West Pavilion at the Finney County Fairgrounds with a local boxing club, commissioners were excited about the prospect of a steady source of rental income and the increased use of the building.

On Monday, county resident Wayne Goss raised concerns about the impact sports equipment could have on the building during the county fair in late July.

Goss said he's been involved with 4-H and fair activities his entire life, and has a problem with equipment taking up space in a building that was designed, and paid for by taxpayers, to hold livestock.

"It came to our attention this spring when that building was going to be used for a pig sale, we saw that it was converted basically into a sports complex," he said. "There's a lot of concern from parents and families."

In January, the county agreed to a long-term contract with Bad Boyz Boxing Club to rent the building Monday through Thursday. The club began using the facility in February.

Another group, Redhawk Academy, a nonprofit organization that teaches baseball and softball skills, has been operating since late March. It operates Monday through Thursday nights, Saturday afternoons and Sundays by appointment.

A third organization, Greater Gold Wrestling, which is for 4- to 16-year-olds, signed an agreement with the fairgrounds a couple weeks ago but won't begin operating until October.

All three signed annual agreements with the fairgrounds.

Goss doesn't like that the building is being rented full time and said it was "unacceptable" to have any sports equipment in the building during the fair, even though the equipment would be packed together on the east side of the building.

In the past, Goss said, the fair has needed all of the building, both for livestock and holding excess panels for show and sale rings, along with tack and other miscellaneous things. He told the commission he wants to see the sports equipment moved.

"We do it all the time. We move equipment in and have our show or event, then we pack it up and put it away. I think it ought to be the same for any other organization," he said.

Commissioner Roman Halbur said he understood Goss' concerns, but encouraged those with concerns to wait and see how it works this year. Changes, if necessary, could be made next year.

"I think you ought to try it before you condemn it," Halbur said. "All I'm asking is you try this one year and see. If this isn't working, come back and we'll reassess it."

Commissioner Cliff Mayo said he doesn't want to cancel contracts because of the income they provide, but he wants to find a compromise that would allow the sports equipment to be moved during the fair.

"I realize we made an agreement, but surely there's a way we can work with them, even if we need to put a little money into it to move that stuff out of there during the fair," Mayo said.

Coaches with the three groups, Robert Gonzales of Bad Boyz, Marcus Sabata with Redhawk Academy, and Terry Johnson with Greater Gold, said during interviews Monday night that they met with Angie Clark, fairgrounds manager, and Randy Partington, county administrator, Monday afternoon to talk about the issue.

The plan is still to move all equipment to the east side of the building during the fair, which would free up the vast majority of the structure for fair activities, but the coaches aren't sure if there will be more discussion about it in the near future.

"We don't know what more we can do," Sabata said. "We've been more than flexible. I'm not sure how much more flexible we can be and still run an operation."

Sabata said his group has been receptive to every request that's come from the Fair Board since they moved in on March 30. He said there have been suggestions to move everything to one side, move everything into a storage facility and move everything to the east side.

"Every time the Fair Board says, 'Yeah, that's good,'" Sabata said. "But a week or two later, it's not good."

Sabata said he wants it clear that none of the three organizations came to the county asking to rent space; they were approached by Clark about it.

Gonzales said right now he's opposed to moving all the equipment out during the fair, but he is willing to continue talking.

"Everything is workable. I'm not speaking for anybody else, but I wish they would have come and talked to us instead of going and making demands to the commissioners. Isn't that what grown-ups do?" he said.

All three organizations are nonprofits that pay the county for use of the facility. Johnson said his group is paying for a year-long contract, although it will only use the facility six months out of the year.

"If we're going to be at the whim of who gets elected to the Fair Board, then we're going to be someplace else. I guarantee you that," Johnson said. "We're not going to mess with them every year. No way."

Gonzales said the fair has always been good for the community, but he feels the things the sports groups offer are just as beneficial, affecting close to 400 youth combined. It's also good for the county to have activity going on in a building that sits idle much of the time, he said.

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