By Jessie Burchette
The county fairgrounds on Julian Road will be getting some improvements along with changes in rental fees.
Among the changes will be a much larger deposit to cover cleanup when groups leave acres of trash.
Don Bringle, Rowan County’s parks and recreation director, gave commissioners a brief look at problems at the fairgrounds during their retreat last week.
Topping the list of repair projects is the food booths or concession stands. “They need to be bulldozed and start over,” said Bringle, displaying pictures that showed an array of problems.
Commissioner Jim Sides suggested some type of portable units, such as trailers, instead of building more permanent structures when the county may sell the property in the next few years.
Bringle said several available options available are better than the existing facilities.
The county took over running the Julian Road site in November after a 50-year lease with the Rowan County Fair Association expired. Operation of the property now falls under Parks and Recreation, with the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority handling leasing.
Bringle’s pictures showed problems including rotting wood, 28-inch doors on some restrooms and numerous examples of “volunteer electrical work” which doesn’t meet code.
The four commissioners attending the retreat ó Arnold Chamberlain, Chad Mitchell, Tina Hall and Jim Sides ó all said the fairgrounds work should be done this year.
Bringle also advised the board that he will be recommending a much heftier deposit for security and cleanup.
Bringle said the current $500 deposit didn’t make a dent in the cost of cleaning the property after the recent Southeastern Tree Walker Show and Hunt. Held Feb. 22-23, the hunting dog show was the biggest event at the fairgrounds since the parks department assumed responsibility.
While the folks who attended filled up area hotel rooms and restaurants and spread cash around town, they left a mess at the fairgrounds. Bringle said the group left virtually everything except dog doo-doo.
The county established the $500 fee after taking control of the fairgrounds in November. County officials initially estimated a normal cleanup would take two men three hours, for a total of six man hours.
But Bringle said Tuesday it took four park maintenance workers two days ó or a total of more than 50 hours ó to clean up the property after the Tree Walker event.
“They were great people, wonderful to work with,” he said. “They just left a lot of garbage.”
Although the county did not return the $500 deposit to event organizers, Bringle said the sum didn’t come close to paying the cleanup costs.
Parks staff encountered a similar experience when a flea market ended and vendors left a lot of the material that wasn’t sold. Bringle had to bring in a contract garbage crew to clean up.
At the retreat, Bringle told commissioners that operating the fairgrounds is a learning experience.
Staff discovered the fairgrounds has nearly a dozen camper hookups, which the hunting dog group used without any charge. Bringle and James Meacham, executive director of the Tourism Development Authority, are reviewing what similar facilities do and developing campground rental fees for future fairground rentals. The charge would offset the cost of utilities.
The current fee structure sets a basic rate of $200 per day for nonprofits, including churches. For-profit groups are charged $800 a day for the entire fairgrounds site, along with the refundable $500 security and cleanup deposit.
Meacham said the goal is to have reasonable charges that offset expenses. He is developing recommendations that will be presented to commissioners as part of the 2008-09 budget.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254 or email@example.com.
By Jessie Burchette