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Palmer, Platte Board discuss Ag Park future

August 8, 2018

Supervisors Hollie Old and Tom Martens have thought a long-range plan for refreshing Platte County Agricultural Park facilities made sense for a while.

Brian Palmer, general manager for Ag Park, has also been a believer in putting some polish on the future of the Platte County Fairgrounds.

Palmer offered his latest pitch during Tuesday’s meeting of the Platte County Board of Supervisors in which he submitted the Ag Society’s request for $575,000 in 2018-19 funding from tax dollars.

The tax request is $75,000 below the $650,000 requested last fiscal year, but was offset by ancillary revenue-producing events at Ag Park, Palmer said.

The tax request is based on the Ag Society’s expected expenses directly and indirectly correlated to the annual July fair, Palmer wrote in a letter handed out to the supervisors.

“There are many ideas of what the future of what the Platte County Fairgrounds can and should look like, and the Ag Society would like to start making those discussions come to fruition in the near future,” Palmer said.

Olk has been touting the need for more strategic planning for the fairgrounds’ facilities every year she’s been on the board.

“There needs to be some improvements out there at the fairgrounds,” she said.

The bathrooms located beneath the grandstand area in particular are in need of improvement, Martens said.

“We all want bathrooms and other facilities that we can all be proud of as a county,” Palmer said.

“There’s a large discrepancy between what it takes to run a fair and what was awarded in tax dollars,” she added.

The county board sets property tax levy limits for the Ag Society and other governmental subdivisions, such as rural fire districts and townships, that make up the combined county levy that will be approved in September.

In the past, Palmer has said boosting taxpayer support for fair expenses would allow the Ag Society to put some funds aside for much-needed infrastructure improvements.

In recent years, the Ag Society spent thousands of dollars for plumbing and drainage repairs that officials consider an absolute must.

The Ag Society asked the county board to allocate $200,000 in its 2017-18 budget for fair expenses. The rest of the $650,000 tax asking was earmarked for general operations ($325,000) and buildings and grounds ($125,000).

The Ag Society’s other ongoing activities at Ag Park, including income from facility rentals for community events and weddings and restaurant sales, supplement the organization’s overall revenue. The group also receives money from Columbus Exposition and Racing for the live horse racing meet.

Jim Osborn is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at jim.osborn@lee.net.

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