Fair building funds still uncertain

Upgrade sought in 2017
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Contributed Illustration As shown in this rendering, the Junior Fair Building improvements would include a new exterior painted in red and green colors.

Leader File Photo The existing Junior Fair Building is 50 years old and officials say it needs a new roof, doors, lighting, insulation and other improvements.

Funding is moving forward in the Shawano County budget — but is not a sure thing — to make improvements next year to a big attraction at the Shawano County Fair.

Members of a County Board committee have assigned a relatively low priority to $125,000 in capital spending requested for the Junior Fair Building.

Known as a popular spot for kids and families during the fair, the 50-year-old building needs a new roof, doors, lighting, insulation and more.

County officials said the project could yet be fully funded, although it might depend on a funding source that has been inconsistent in recent years.

Dale Hodkiewicz, president of the Shawano Area Agricultural Society, which manages the county fair, said he remains encouraged about the chances of getting county funding for the building improvements.

“We’ve got to be patient, that’s all,” he said.

The agricultural society is seeking county funds to overhaul the Junior Fair Building in 2017, not before the annual fair that kicks off Aug. 31.

The fairgrounds is owned by the county but managed by the private agricultural society, which is offering to raise $45,000 if the county will contribute $125,000 for the project. The building, also known as the 4-H Building, is home to 4-H club members and their families throughout the county fair.

A request for county funding went nowhere last year because it was submitted too late in the annual capital spending process.

This time, the project was included among more than a dozen seeking funds July 21 when members of the capital improvement committee ranked 2017 spending priorities for recommendation to the full County Board. The county fair improvement was ranked 11th of 14 recommended for funding.

County officials said they expect all 14 projects to be funded, adding that they fully support the Junior Fair Building proposal.

“It’s a worthwhile project,” said Supervisor Kevin Conradt, chairman of the committee. “Hopefully it’ll move forward.”

Among the projects ranked higher are a courthouse security video upgrade, resurfacing on the Mountain Bay Trail, a new storage shelter for highway equipment, and a fish cleaning station by a boat landing at a park.

A final capital spending package approved later by the full County Board will be included in the 2017 county budget, likely decided by board members in October.

Under the plan recommended by the capital improvement committee, funding for the Junior Fair Building would be allocated from money the county expects to receive later this year from American Transmission Co. The company compensates Shawano County for utility line expansion, and the funding has been used in the past for county capital improvements.

The transmission company money has not always arrived as expected, but county officials voiced confidence that funds will be available for the county fair project.

“We believe it will come,” Supervisor Tom Kautza said. “It’s just a matter of when it arrives.”

Hodkiewicz said he would have liked to see the Junior Fair Building ranked higher among the recommended county spending priorities for next year.

Focused on getting ready for the 2016 fair, Hodkiewicz said he has not discussed the issue with county officials and likely will not do so until after the fair ends Sept. 5.

“I’m staying out of the politics as of now,” he said.