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Fair fight for governance continues

The “fair” fight continued on Tuesday as the Bannock County commissioners are still negotiating the terms of governance over the county fairgrounds with the Bannock County Fair Board.

County Legal Counsel Ian Service said the possible change of hands will not negatively impact the activities held at the fairgrounds. In fact, on Tuesday morning the commissioners agreed upon erecting a brand new arena on the property just in time for the Idaho State High School Rodeo competition held June 7.

Service said the controversy began when he noticed the board was exercising too much power of governance over all of the fairground activities year-round. According to Idaho Code, the board had been acting outside its legal limits for years, going unchecked.

He said this resulted in county workers not understanding who to report to, contracts being made without the county knowing, and confusion over the the exchange of funds.

“There was no exchange between the right hand and the left hand,” Service said. “What does soccer have to do with running county fairs? My opinion, legally, is nothing. Same with high school rodeos, POW-MIA, and every other entity that contracts with Bannock County to use our facilities.”

He said Idaho Statute 22-201 states “the creation of county Fair Boards by ordinance or by Idaho Code.” He said under this creation code, there are two points: the first states that fair boards are set up with the purpose of putting-on county fairs. The second, is that creating a fair board may be optional.

But the Fair Board is arguing this with Statute 22-204, which states the board is allowed total governance over the entire fairgrounds with a county made up of less than 200,000 people.

But Service said, that still falls under the presiding code, 22-201, saying it is still only allowed to have this power only when it comes to what goes on during the time they are putting-on the two county fairs.

“Yes, you can be a governing body, governing over the two fairs,” Service said. “It doesn’t say just because we call it fairgrounds, you’re governor over our fairgrounds.”

Fair Board legal counsel was out of town and was unavailable to comment.

But North Fair Advisory Committee member JoLynn Anderson said she feels the Fair Board is being used as a scapegoat for another purpose.

“I think this is a smoke screen to cover up what the Bannock County Commissioners are doing with the Portneuf Health Care Foundation if they want to build the soccer fields, volleyball courts, and fishing pond,” Anderson said.

She said she grew up going to the Bannock County Fairs since the 1950s and said the Fair Board has always exercised the same powers over the years without being called into question.

She said she believes turning over the fairgrounds will cause them to lose equestrian events since this will allow the county to build the $10 million complex on it.

But Service said right now the contracts and some fund deficits need to be accounted for before they can move forward. Currently, the county and the board agreed to have a local CPA company look over the board’s past funds over the past few years within this 30-day period the board has temporarily been suspended.

They are slated to reconvene at 9 a.m. on June 18.

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