Pitch for fairgrounds purchase
By Lee Barnes
The Rowan County Fair Association would like the county to get out of the fair business.
The association wants to buy the fairgrounds, and will pitch a proposal to the commissioners this evening that will include a request for help in financing such a purchase. The association currently leases the fairgrounds from the county.
The last time the matter of possibly selling the fairgrounds came up, county officials said the land was worth about $100,000 to $150,000 per acre.
Lurking in the background on any talk about the sale of the fairgrounds is the annual Smoke Out motorcycle rally at the fairgrounds. After allowing the event for four years, the commissioners in 2007 decided that the fairgrounds wasn’t the proper place for a rally that combines motorcycles and alcohol consumption. There has been no Smoke Out here in the past two years.
The 2007 Smoke Out went off without incident, but had tighter security than previous events. Both the fair association and the county hired off-duty deputies, doubling the typical size of the security detail.
After the county withdrew its support for the Smoke Out, promoters looked for another Rowan County site for the event, but came up with nothing.
At one point, the rally appeared headed for the Mooresville Dragway, a privately owned facility off N.C. 152 near the Iredell County line. But the owner of the drag strip said he’s never sold beer there, and was not interested in setting a precedent. The owners of the dragway now face drug charges.
A 2010 Smoke Out is scheduled for late June in Rockingham.
The board will also consider a proposal this evening to move the county’s surplus jail prisoners from Sampson County to Montgomery County. Rowan currently pays $50 per person per day to Sampson County to house its excess prisoners. Last year, the county spent $650,000 for such housing.
Montgomery County has the advantage of geography. The drive to Sampson County to drop off and pick up prisoners is 190 miles ó three hours each way ó while the drive to the prison in Troy is one hour. The county stands to save money in reduced personnel costs as well as fuel.
Earlier this month, Rowan voters approved a 1/4-cent sales tax increase to help pay for a jail annex to house its excess prisoners.