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County commission, management group discuss improvements for Boone County Fairgrounds

Monday, October 3, 2011 | 6:53 p.m. CDT; updated 3:32 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 4, 2011
A pile of manure sits outside the stables on Monday at the Boone County Fairgrounds. Workers have been removing the manure and providing other general maintenance around the fairgrounds over the past two weeks.

COLUMBIA — The Boone County Commission met Monday and agreed to eliminate waste.

Except instead of cutting the spending, they're increasing the spreading — of manure.

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There's a two-acre pile of manure at the Boone County Fairgrounds, and it's finally being addressed.

"If you stay on top of it, it doesn't accumulate," said Mike Teel, a member of the temporary ownership group TAG Events LLC, which began managing the fairgrounds Saturday. TAG will be working at the fairgrounds to spread the manure and fertilize the surrounding land.

Taking care of the manure pile — the result of horse shows, fairs and FFA events — is just one of many improvements and repairs that are part of the extreme makeover that's just beginning at the fairgrounds. Boone County commissioners met with TAG and county auditor June Pitchford on Monday to discuss the terms of the company's 90-day contract and to talk about how to better market the fairgrounds.

The property needs a lot of work. There are holes and leaks in buildings, bad pipes, trash and abandoned equipment, including fences, signs and cars. Some present safety issues. Both Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller and Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin cited those as top priority.

There were major internal repairs identified by TAG and the commission:

  • The hood in the restaurant kitchen has rusted through, Elkin said.
  • The restrooms need work. Teel said the state of the bathrooms makes it difficult to "attract a nice event." Miller said, "You wouldn't want to use them."
  • The horse stalls were described as "outdated" by TAG member Brent Gibson.
  • The front part of the Coliseum's roof could cost upwards of $108,000 to repair, said Miller, who had asked Teel and Gibson for an estimate.

Miller said she would like to see community groups do some of the minor repairs, such as fence painting and mowing. Gibson said the new accounting system would allow TAG to track volunteer hours.

Teel supported involvement by organizations such as 4-H but said "you can't turn a 10- or 12-year-old loose with a Weed Eater."

TAG is also responsible for setting up an accounting system and paying 50 percent of the utility costs.

As previously reported by the Missourian, the current accounting system does not show profit and cost by event. Gibson will use QuickBooks software to organize the fair's accounts.

The commission discussed ways to make the fairgrounds more appealing to visitors from Columbia and elsewhere. One idea is changing the name of the fairgrounds.

"We've got a wonderful facility," Teel said. "It just needs to be maintained."

Miller pitched the idea of a naming contest and said the county wants to work with Columbia's Convention and Visitors Bureau. Elkin specified the new name of the fairgrounds must include "Missouri."

TAG plans to survey fairgrounds visitors to see which accommodations they use. Some visitors from outside the state bring revenue for local hotels, while others stay in campers, bringing the fairgrounds revenue from trailer hook-ups.

Because TAG is only an interim manager of the fairgrounds, the county commission must approve events booked beyond Jan. 1.

Miller compared the contract with TAG to a home kitchen remodel, saying that putting in a new kitchen benefits you in the long run.

"It's going to pay you back," Miller said.

The price of TAG's contract with the county is $135,000. The county will pay $42,000 a month to TAG for the upkeep and operation of the grounds. The contract allows for up to $15,000 dollars in additional funds for larger maintenance needs. TAG will be under contract for three months.

The commission will issue a request for proposals for permanent management as early as today. The data TAG will be collecting over the next three months will be available to the public and to others who want to apply for the permanent position.

Whoever takes the permanent job will have to get right to work. There's an event planned on New Year's Day.


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