Routt County wants to charge more fees for use of the Routt County Fairgrounds in Hayden, a suggestion that has upset parents of 4-H members who would be affected.
The county's 2009 budget will be tight, and the fairgrounds must recoup more of its costs, County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said last week. Although use of the grounds during the Routt County Fair would remain free, some parents contend that fees could kill programs. The commissioners plan to address concerns at Wednesday's Fair Board meeting.
"The bottom line is we need to be able to generate enough revenue to pay the operating costs of those buildings," Stahoviak said.
The county has given the fairgrounds $140,000 to $190,000 a year from 2005 to 2008, Stahoviak said. Commissioners budgeted $160,000 for the grounds in 2009. The panel and the Routt County Fair Board asked Fair Manager Jill Delay to find any additional money needed, Stahoviak said. Delay worked with the county to devise a fee schedule, Stahoviak said.
The Fair Board has tabled the proposal a couple of times.
If 4-H members use the grounds in 2009 as much as they did last year, the charges would come to more than $3,000, Routt County 4-H Agent Jay Whaley said.
Parents, including Barbara Manzanares, of Hayden, said it was unfair to charge 4-H members to use a building they helped build. 4-H members raised money for the Multipurpose Building on the fairgrounds, and parents helped construct it, she said.
"I hope they exhausted all other possibilities before charging the kids for a facility that they put time and money into getting to fruition," said Manzanares, who has two children who have participated in 4-H.
The 4-H members contributed $30,000 to the $744,480 cost of the building, according to a document Stahoviak provided. Most of the funding came from grants and state lottery funds.
"Although we : understand and appreciate the work 4-H members put into funding and getting that built, there were a lot of people that went into this," Stahoviak said.
Ceena Rossi, who lives between Phippsburg and Yampa, said she fears that additional fees would make it difficult for 4-H members to afford shooting sports and team roping programs at the fairgounds.
"I'm a mother of four 4-H kids, so I just see so many benefits that come from 4-H and 4-H kids," Rossi said. "And I know there are other organizations down in Hayden that use it, and I can't speak for them. I think it's sad because (the county is) going to make so little."
Of particular concern to Whaley and others is the potential impact on the 4-H Town Kids Project. The program, which began this year, allowed Hayden youths to raise and house 4-H livestock at the fairgrounds. Eleven children participated, Delay said in July.
Whaley said it was unclear how the fees would affect Town Kids.
"I believe it was our intent that it wouldn't, because we think that's an important project," Stahoviak said. "We haven't had that specific discussion."
The town of Hayden pays to use the fairgrounds for some programs, Town Manager Russ Martin said. He said it seems reasonable that the county would have to charge everyone to cover building expenses such as utilities.
"I'd rather have the opportunity to pay to be able to play, so to speak, rather than shutting it down and having no one be able to use it," Martin said.
According to a draft of the fee schedule, commercial and nonresident groups would pay more. Residents and county nonprofit groups would pay less, and county youth nonprofit groups would pay the smallest amounts.
For example, renting the Multipurpose Building for a day would cost $310 for a commercial/nonresident group and $175 for a Routt County youth nonprofit group.
Stahoviak said she understood that the community had concerns. She said commissioners still plan to contribute $160,000 to the fairgrounds for 2009. The county also pays Whaley's salary and benefits, Stahoviak said.
"I think when you add all those numbers together, it shows we're supporting the youth of the community, and specifically 4-H, to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars," she said.
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