By Jessie Burchette
The Rowan County Tourism Development Authority is a step closer to taking over management of the Rowan County Fairgrounds.
The authority’s board of directors has given tentative approval to an interlocal agreement with the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
Under the agreement, the Tourism Authority will manage the county-owned fairgrounds at no cost. The authority will handle rental and work to attract more events for the Julian Road property.
Once the Board of Commissioners approves the agreement, the authority will begin executing rental agreements and booking events that will be held after Nov. 1. That’s when the current 50-year lease with the Rowan County Fair Association expires.
Both the Fair Association and James Meacham, tourism director, expect a county fair to be held in September 2008, as it has for the past 49 years.
The new leadership of the Fair Association has talked with Meacham and has made clear its interest in continuing to operate the fair.
Meacham has tentatively penciled in the third week in September 2008 for a county fair.
Who operates that fair is a decision that is probably months away.
County commissioners agreed last month to seek requests for proposals from groups wanting to put on the county fair.
Meacham said several groups, some existing and some apparently in the formation stage, have contacted the Tourism Authority seeking information.
Meacham said he expects commissioners to be involved in that decision.
Plans by the Tourism Authority for a new Web page will likely dovetail well with the fairgrounds management.
The authority is seeking proposals for a new Web design that Meacham said will allow much of the fairgrounds rental process to be handled online.
The interlocal agreement provides that the Tourism Authority will have a dedicated phone line, 24-hour answering machine, Internet/online, tax, e-mail and personnel available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, 1to 4 p.m. to answer questions and provide service to those renting the fairgrounds.
The county maintenance department and the Rowan Parks and Recreation Commission will handle maintenance and develop schedules according to the agreement.
On the recommendation of board member Dan Peters, the Tourism Authority agreed to have an attorney review the interlocal agreement before sending it to the board of commissioners.
County Attorney Jay Dees drew the agreement.
The tourism board opted to have Salisbury attorney Rivers Lawther review it. If he recommends changes, the board will hold a special meeting .
During the Tourism Authority meeting, Don Bringle, director of the county’s parks and recreation department, was elected president.
Jim Cowden, director of the Rowan Cooperative Extension Service, was elected vice president.
Bringle and Cowden will take office in August. The board doesn’t normally meet in July.
By Jessie Burchette