Fair Board President Survives Confidence Vote, Two Board Members Resign

DSC_6633 WEBBy: T.J. Hug
The Village Reporter

The Williams County Agricultural Society saw its membership reduced by two during the course of their May regular meeting.

Calling for a vote of confidence on Fair Board President Eugene Wilson near the conclusion of said meeting, Bridgwater Township representative John McDonald had raised issue with the Superior Township man multiple times on the evening. The first time McDonald made his decent known was when he initiated a discussion on the organization’s annual Ribfest event, which is set to take place from July 24 to July 26. His concerns were related to the delay in submitting the application for a liquor license for the gathering, a process that had taken far too long to occur in McDonald’s estimation.

“We’ve been at this since December.” Said the disgruntled board member.

In response, Wilson cited a need to have it stated in the minutes that the board approved the application, for insurance purposes, as the reason for postponements.

“We need to have it in the minutes that we passed this for the insurance company.” He rebutted.

It was immediately after that McDonald put a motion on the floor that the application be filled out and submitted, and found a quick second. The issue was passed with an overwhelming majority of affirmative votes.

Another complaint lodged by McDonald involved a letter previously sent from the Williams County Commissioners’ Office concerning the covered bridge of the fairgrounds, which they requested by repaired. Handing out copies of the document to every board member present, the man from Bridgwater reminded them of Wilson’s reaction to the initial reception of it.

“He said the Commissioner’s were ordering us to have that bridge fixed.” Claimed McDonald, pointing at Wilson. “That’s not what this letter says.”

The wording of the letter stated that the Commissioners, after speaking with the Williams County Engineer, that it was their advisement that the ten year old structure be closed and repaired. This led to McDonald making the claim that the County Commissioners don’t have the authority to order the Fair Board on how to manage the facility with which they’re charged, and he went on to claim that Wilson sensationalized the letter in order to close the bridge.

After reading the letter for himself, Bob Wieland, vice president of the board, disagreed with that assessment. Acknowledging that he wasn’t a member of the board at the time the letter was first addressed, Wieland was quick to point out one fact that didn’t happen to be stated explicitly in the note.

“The Williams County Engineer is responsible for all bridges in the county. Period.” Proclaimed the at-large member. “It’s my opinion that this letter is ordering us to shut down the bridge and repair it.”

Opponents of how the bridge issue argued that the wording used by the commissioners meant that it was to be taken as a recommendation, rather than a command, and that Wilson drastically overreacted.

Shortly after introducing the bridge complaint before the board, McDonald made a motion to have a vote of confidence taken on Wilson’s presidency. He was swiftly seconded by one Jeff Lehman, another at-large member of the board.

Lehman had expressed his own disgruntled feeling about President Wilson throughout the night as well. His first complaint lodged was with the moving the opening time of the Fair for all days except Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 9:00 A.M. to 7:30 A.M. during last month’s meeting, which he was unable to attend. Aside from the complications he believed this would make in terms of scheduling adjustments for Gate employees, of whom he was appointed to organize, it was how he discovered this development that upset him.

“It would have been nice to find out before two days ago, when I was reading the minutes.”

When the decision of how to charge Soles Motor Sports for usage of the track located on the fairgrounds for practicing purposes, Lehman made it known that he did not approve of their usage of the property at all.

“That track was not designed for motor sports.” he stated.

That claim was quickly countered with a mentioning of the yearly demolition derby, which takes place on that very track. His response was that the vehicles move at lower speeds and safety staff are on hand to assist if need be. Liability for any accidents taking place during these practices lies with business owner Larry Soles, who made a donation of $240 with the understanding that he would be able to use the track in exchange. The board elected to keep that policy in tact.

With the Gillette Building in need of repairs after catching on fire nearly a month ago, the board received a more recent letter from the County Commissioners regarding the insurance on the property. The letter claimed that the insurance company responsible for its repair estimated the damages at $15,000, and that their office would need reimbursed for the $2,500 deductible. Several board members, including both Lehman and McDonald took issue with this, as the Fair Board, as site manager, is responsible for the care of everything on the grounds. Wilson felt differently.

“We don’t have a lease for the building.” He insisted.

Dismissing that notion was Lehman, who reiterated that, regardless of leasing status, it was the board’s job to care for and maintain every building on the fairgrounds. He continued, asking Wilson if he had requested any additional information from the Commissioners’ office about the estimates. Wilson said he had not, holding firm on his belief that it was the job of the Commissioner’s to handle the situation.

Sitting in amongst the guests at the meeting was Brent Wilson, of Wilson Auction and Realty. Drawing upon his own experiences assisting a local airport with such matters, Brent was quick to point out that it was in fact the board’s responsibility to handle such matters in the eyes of the law.

“It’s your job to manage these grounds.” Brent established

It was eventually decided that the building committee would request the information from the Commissioners, as well as seek three quotes independent of the one listed by them for the repairs.

His last complaint, Lehman introduced to the board a letter sent to the Athena Group by President Wilson. It’s content consisted of a request for a donation of $13,000 in order for the Fair Board to purchase a card swiping security system for the premises. Lehman was upset by this on three fronts. First, having a seat on the Executive Committee and being charged with security issues, he had no idea that the letter had been sent until receiving a call from an Athena Group representative on the matter.

Second, the idea of installing such a security system was thought to have been tabled at the February regular meeting of the board to be discussed at a later date, while the document in question was sent out a couple of weeks later. And finally, Lehman contended that there were plenty of things for which the money could be used other than the system, such as building maintenance.

“We need to take care of what we have first.”

Wilson’s defense was that it was his understanding that the board had decided to move forward with the security system, and that the letter was a part of that process.
All of these happenings led to the vote of confidence being called, and each member wrote their decision on a scrap of paper. The votes were tallied, with ten members electing to keep Wilson as President and nine voting to evict him from the position. Wilson, who had remained stone faced throughout everything that had transpired, continued to hide his emotions.

“Well, I guess I’m still here.” He announced.

Mere seconds after that proclamation, Lehman tendered his resignation, effective immediately. He returned a $500 check donated by Brent Wilson, and promised to do the same for two more checks from other citizens of Williams County, totaling $1,250 between the three donations. The money would have gone toward paying for a mime, which will be performing on Kids Day at the Fair, taking place on September 14. McDonald promised to write his own letter of resignation as well, and the two followed one another out of the meeting.

An Executive Session was called shortly thereafter, with the intent to discuss personnel named as the reason.

Before that, however, Brent Wilson once again addressed the board, his opinion commanding their respect. He stated his belief that everyone on the board was likely a good person, even the two former members who had just walked out, but that perhaps there were too many personalities present to effectively make decisions.

“It would be nice to see everybody work together.” He added.

It was also his belief that the board needed to expand its thinking in its approach to running the fair.

“You need to think outside the box, because your competitors are.” Brent pointed out, referencing the Fulton County Fair.

There are a few changes on the horizon being put into place by the Fair Board, though.

A scholarship is likely to be offered to the Fair’s King and Queen in the near future. With somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 already saved up, the board approved a motion to tack on another $500 to the fund.

Bob Crowe put forth a motion to host a fish fry on behalf of the Edon Fire Department.

“I’d like to have the Fair Board help.” Said Crowe. “All these firefighters in Williams County and surrounding counties put their lives on the line for us.”

Met with unanimous approval, the event was scheduled for August 1. Potential locations for the fish fry include the Thamen Building, the Pavilion, and the Gillette Building. Crowe expects a large turnout.

“I’m looking to sell three-thousand tickets at $10 a pop.”

Another source of funds will come from the regular auctioneer who inhabits the space next to the Maintenance Building each year during Fair Week. The board voted to charge the auctioneer $250 to use the space, with Patrick Meuhlfeld, of Florence Township, setting the price. In previous years, a donation from the auction company has sufficed for this purpose, but the business requested a set price this year. The auction’s profits will in no way factor into said price.

The board adjourned the meeting at roughly 10:00 P.M. Reorganization is sure to be a top priority for the board in June, as it seeks to absorb the loss of two very active members.

T.J. Hug can be reached at
publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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