By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
Problems between the Williams County Fair Foundation and the Fair Board have reached a point where the former is preparing to disband.
John McDonald and five other representatives of the Foundation appeared before the Williams County Board of Commissioners May 26 to ask for permission to raise money for a new standalone building or the organization will disband. Commissioners offered to arrange mediation, but the Foundation was cool toward the option.
The Fair Foundation said it is being squeezed by the Fair Board on rents for buildings it uses on the fairgrounds for various fundraisers. The money paid out for the use of the buildings leaves little cash to work with, let alone give to the Fair.
“We are entertaining discussion to disband or go into deep hibernation,” Foundation President John McDonald said.
Tensions have been building over the past three years with rents being charged and interference from the fair board. Foundation meetings have been disrupted by Fair Board members as well.
To resolve the matter, McDonald wants the county board to sign off on letting the Foundation raise money for its own building.
Board Vice President Lewis Hilkert, running the meeting while President Brian Davis was not in attendance, said the foundation needs to have an accounting of what it actually owns. He also offered to have Judge J.T. Stelzer arrange mediation with a disinterested third party.
“We as a board are not going to get in the middle of that,” Hilkert said about assessing ownership.
Foundation Vice President Bob Crowe said the Fair Board has confiscated equipment donated to the foundation and does not return phone calls.
“We are being pushed into a corner,” Crowe said.
The Fair Board has recently informed McDonald the foundation must turn in all of its keys as the fairgrounds will be getting new locks for all of the buildings, he said.
The toxic atmosphere is pushing away people who would normally volunteer for the Foundation, McDonald said. He and the other five people who came May 26 represent 98 percent of the foundation membership.
“There has been three years of bending,” McDonald said. “We are done bending.”
That being said, the Foundation still wants to help the fair and be supportive.
“There is no desire not work with the Fair Board,” McDonald said.
But without a positive resolution, the Foundation is prepared to proceed with the process of disbanding the organization. The process involves paying all the legal fees and after that disbursing whatever remaining funds.
“We haven’t been able to raise money,” McDonald said. “We were charged $2,000 rent for a garage sale. We haven’t got it.”
While Hilkert continued to push for mediation, Commissioner Alan Word was not supportive. He did not think mediation would work.
Fair Board President Dave Page was in attendance, but declined comment.
James Pruitt may be reached at