A handful of county residents spoke words of support during a public hearing Tuesday before county supervisors agreed to help the local Fair Board expedite a government process as it seeks to form a new district.
Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution of application on behalf of the Del Norte County Fair Board to the Local Agency Formation to form a parks and recreation district that would manage and operate the fairgrounds.
This allows the Fair Board to go through the LAFCO process without having to collect signatures from 25 percent of the county's registered voters. The Board, part of the 41st District Agricultural Association, hopes to get approval from LAFCO to create a special district by June or July. The new district would be made up of directors elected by the public in November.
Voters would also be asked to approve a seven-year, 0.25-percent sales tax increase to fund the new district. But Board member Kevin Hartwick said fairground officials will continue to search for public-private partnership opportunities.
"We're aggressively looking for partners to participate in the process of self-sufficiency," he said. "The community should know that is built into every discussion that we have."
To be successful, the tax measure must be approved by two-thirds of those voting.
If the tax measure is unsuccessful, the Fair Board expects to be out of money following the 2016 fair, said fairgrounds CEO Randy Hatfield. Even though the fairgrounds is owned by the state and the current board members are appointed by the governor, California stopped funding fairs in 2011.
Former assessor Jerry Cochran and Solid Waste Authority member Mary Wilson both supported the fair's efforts to sustain itself in the future.
"I think the district has done a good job in the past and saw what was coming down the road and saved their monies," Wilson said. "I think this would be a good option. It leaves the choice with the public. It sounds like a good plan."
Supervisors' approval of the resolution of application will make it more likely that LAFCO would OK the creation of a special fair district, Fair Board attorney Martha Rice said in December. Apart from the proposed sales tax increase, there isn't any other funding mechanism proposed for the new district. If the tax measure fails the district wouldn't be formed, Rice said.
Once the special district is created, the current Fair Board would continue to exist, Rice said. The state would also continue to own the fairgrounds itself.
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