WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP — Tempers flared at the Crawford County Fair Board meeting Thursday night as the Crawford County Commissioners presented a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to the fair board.
The memorandum, which has to do with a deed transfer of fairground land, is a 16-point list of requests that would give the county more oversight over the fair board.
The fair board members appeared outraged with the memorandum, with some expressing that it stripped the decision-making from those actually involved with the county fair.
County Commissioner Chairman Eric Henry stated that the MOU was inevitable due to the poor communication between the fair board and the county commissioners in recent years.
The issue stems from a 911 response tower that the county built in 2011 on land owned by the Crawford County Fair Association. The fair board has been in negotiations with Crawford County to transfer the deed of the land.
During negotiations, the company that provides insurance to the county and fair board, Pennsylvania Counties Risk Pool, discovered a potential liability problem for Crawford County. The insurance situation is particularly important due to the fact that the county’s solicitor, Keith Button, was recently informed that the county will receive litigation, according to Henry.
Henry pointed out two situations where the county could be on the hook for the fair board’s actions. One situation had to deal with contracts. Currently, the Crawford County Fair Board can sign any contract that they collectively approve.
During Thursday’s meeting, Henry created a hypothetical situation where the fair board books Garth Brooks to perform for $1 million. If an issue occurred involving that performance and contract with Brooks, according to Henry, the Crawford County taxpayers would be on the hook to foot the bill if the money was not recouped.
The second situation Henry presented dealt with what happens if a fairgoer is called a racial slur by a fair volunteer or employee. According to Henry, county taxpayers would have to pay for the litigation.
The Crawford County Fair Board members seemed outraged by the memorandum they were presented with. Some of the 16 points in the memorandum pertained to changes to the actual fairgrounds that would strictly be the responsibility of the county commissioners.
In the MOU, fair board members would be required to sign an ethics form and county commissioners could remove fair board members “at any time for any reason.”
Responding to the memorandum, Fair Board Member Adam Raney said, “I’ve never felt more disrespected as a volunteer as I have in the past few months.” The disrespect stems from his belief that the fair board has successfully run the Crawford County Fair for 74 years. The board is made up of people who typically participate in the county fair.
The fair board voted unanimously to table the vote on the MOU and deed transfer, to allow for more discussion. The Crawford County Fair Board has a few options to choose from for how to deal with the insurance situation.
Members of the public are in favor of the fair board turning into a 501C3, according to those in attendance. Becoming a nonprofit would allow the fair board to no longer rely on the county for insurance and other needs.
Henry reminded the attendees that the fairground land would have to be transferred over to the fair board. Henry also reminded attendees that the county currently loses $150,000 per year operating the fairground.
Another option would be that the fair board get its own insurance. Currently the fair board uses a government insurance due to cheaper rates. According to Crawford County Fair Board President George Deshner, insurance for the fair board would cost from $10,000 to $12,000.
The next Crawford County Fair Board meeting is Sept. 10 at the fairgrounds.