County supervisors may have helped expedite a government process to try to ensure the local fair's survival, but it will still be more than four months before a special district can be created.
The Del Norte County Fair Board, which represents the 41st District Agricultural Association, presented an application to the Local Area Formation Commission on Jan. 27 to form a parks and recreation district that would manage and operate the fairgrounds.
The Fair Board was able to bypass a signature-gathering process and go directly to LAFCO thanks to the Board of Supervisors' approval of a resolution of application on Jan. 20.
Before LAFCO commissioners can vote on the fair board's application, staff must conduct an environmental review, a Municipal Service Review and hold a public hearing and a protest hearing, said Executive Officer George Williamson.
"We're going to be moving them to public hearings in four months," he said. "If there's a favorable initial action by the commission then we move forward with a protest proceeding. That's where people who would be in the district - and it's countywide - would have the opportunity to protest (the commission's decision)."
LAFCO oversees the formation of new governmental entities and changes of organization in existing governmental agencies. Two county supervisors, two members of the Crescent City Council and a member from the public sit on the commission.
According to the California Governor's Office of Planning and Research, LAFCO must prepare a written review of the services a government agency provides.
Fairgrounds CEO Randy Hatfield said he hopes the LAFCO process will be completed by the summer. Once it's completed, the Fair Board will focus on getting potential candidates to run for the director positions on the new district board, he said. Voters would also be asked to approve a seven-year, 0.25-percent sales tax increase to fund the new district.
"It's a long process, and we felt it was necessary," Hatfield said, referring to the LAFCO process. "Because of that November date we have to get it on the ballot. If we don't get it on there then we're going to run out of time and we're going to run out of money for the fair."
Apart from the proposed sales tax increase, there isn't any other proposed funding mechanism for the new fair district, according to Hatfield. That money would be used solely to operate the fairgrounds. The tax measure will require a two-thirds vote to pass, he said.
"We wanted to make sure voters understood that the money is dedicated for the fair and could not be used in any other direction," Hatfield said.
If the tax measure is unsuccessful, the Fair Board expects to be out of money following the 2016 fair. 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.
Once the special district is created, the current Fair Board would continue to exist and the grounds would still be owned by the state.
According to Fair Board member Kevin Hartwick, who spoke before the Board of Supervisors last month, officials will continue to search for public-private partnership opportunities to operate the fairgrounds.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.