MOUNT VERNON — A long-developing plan to secure property for the Knox County Fairgrounds against possible future development was sealed Thursday at the Knox County Service Building on East High Street. Fair board president Bruce Gregg and First-Knox National Bank representative Cindy Higgs met with the Knox County Commissioners to sign the paperwork for the county to purchase nearly 55 acres of the farm of the late Ed Linsley Sr., on the west side of the fairgrounds.
“This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to secure this land for the fair board instead of letting it be bought up and turned into a housing development,” said Commissioner Allen Stockberger. He added that the price was “not ideal,” but that it was better than the alternative, which could have seen houses on the hillside overlooking the fairgrounds. The total amount being financed is $600,000, which works out to over $10,956 per acre for the farmland. Stockberger added that the county has an appraisal to support the purchase price.
Gregg said that the focus has been on procuring the land, and thus not too many definite uses for the land have been discussed yet, but that one idea which has been advanced is to place a new entrance to the fairgrounds toward the western end of Fairgrounds Road, which would bring patrons into the grounds, over the hill and into the parking area. This would alleviate the dangerous problems with traffic backing up around the main entrance during peak fair times.
The fair board will put up $83,136 as a down payment, including closing costs, and will pay one of the two semiannual payments. The other payment will be made by the county, who will hold the land on the fair board’s behalf. This allows the loan from First-Knox to be borrowed at the municipal bond rate, something the fair organization would not be able to get on its own. In the event of the fair or county receiving a financial windfall, Higgs assured the commissioners that there would be no penalty for early payment of the loan.
Knox County Fair Board treasurer John Horn will meet with legal representatives this morning for the final closing.
In other business, Knox County Probate and Juvenile Judge James M. Ronk met with the commissioners to advise as a cost-cutting measure that the county move from having two contracted facilities for juveniles, in Marion and Zanesville, to just one. Ronk said that though it was often advantageous to be able to split up individuals involved in one case, he said the current budget-tightening made it better to reduce to one facility.
“It’s a luxury we can’t afford right now,” Ronk said. As the Marion facility requires 60 days notice, Ronk asked the commissioners to move quickly on a resolution. They so moved, and promised to fax the resolution today.
Ronk also said that with the belt-tightening going around, his department was only receiving $25,000 from Children’s Services this year, as opposed to the standard $75,000 which they received in the past. Ronk said he would be able to absorb it this year, but that he wanted to warn the commissioners he would not be able to cover that shortfall two years in a row.
Jonette Curry also met with the commissioners to review revisions made to the county’s 2009 health insurance contract. Upon review of the contract, the Knox County Prosecutor’s Office called for a rewriting of the contract’s indemnity clause, to make sure that no liability was folded back toward the county. Stockberger said that it has been an effort of the county prosecutor’s office in recent years to identify and replace such terms in county contracts, ever since liability for a fire that happened during the building of Opportunity Knox was directed back at the county due to the wording of the contract.