The Grant County Fairgrounds is a busy and important community asset that needs some infrastructure improvement investment, Fairgrounds Manager Mindy Winegar told the county court Feb. 13.

The court agreed to move forward on replacing the parking lot lights that disappeared about three years ago. Judge Scott Myers and Commissioner Jim Hamsher, however, asked for more numbers before approving a request to upgrade Keerins Hall.

Fairgrounds use

The fairgrounds served about 30,000 people in 2018, Winegar said, including serving more than 8,000 visitors to the RV park. Visitors attended yard sales, workshops, benefit dinners, memorial services, Christmas and spring bazaars, a gun show, youth benefits and a quilt show.

They also attended meetings of the Oregon State Snowmobile Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Forest Service’s Forest Plan objectors. Visiting groups included the BMW Riders of Oregon, who have signed up for three more years, an antique car group, bike touring groups and mule and horse clinics.

Big events at the fairgrounds included the rodeo, Queens Dance, Junior Rodeo and the demolition derby. About 13,000 people attended the 109th Grant County Fair, Winegar said.

Lack of lighting in the parking lot poses a safety issue, she said. Conduit has already been run underground for power. Winegar said she received two estimates to install new lights ranging from $20,000 to $25,000.

Keerins Hall has been re-roofed and now needs siding, windows, doors and heating. Winegar noted that the OSU Extension office could relocate to Keerins Hall once the work is completed. An engineer could review interior work, and rebates were possible for new heating systems, she said.

Picnic tables at the RV park also need replacement, Winegar said. Estimates to replace 10 tables with low-maintenance, 300-pound metal models range from $6,000 to $8,000, she said.

Code amendment

The seats were filled for a public hearing on an emergency ordinance amending the Grant County Land Development Code’s language on farm and forest zoning districts.

A letter sent to affected landowners had warned that the regulations could affect property values, but the regulations already existed in state law, Grant County Planning Director Hilary McNary told the court.

The 120-page proposed ordinance would update the county’s development code and incorporate certain state regulations into the code, including regulations on youth camps, experimental forests, solar farms and wind-generating facilities.

McNary noted cases where other counties inadvertently provided incorrect information on allowed and conditional uses, and when the landowners successfully appealed the counties’ rulings, the cost of the appeal fell on the landowners.

Updating the development code will not only simplify the planning staff’s work – it will also protect landowners. The county planning commission had recommended approval, and the court approved the ordinance.

The court also rescinded a Dec. 19 ordinance that established a 3 percent tax on sales of recreational marijuana but hadn’t obtained voter approval. Myers noted that the tax ordinance was never enforced, that the retailer collected the tax on good faith, that the $5,050 turned in by the retailer has been returned and it was up to the retailer to dispose of the collected tax.

The court also approved a request from Grant County Clerk Brenda Percy to replace an aged microfilm machine with a new digital model valued at $12,000.

The following volunteers were appointed: Rick Henslee, Pat Holliday, Steve Parsons and Steven Baldwin to the planning commission; Allison Field to the South East Area Commission on Transportation; and Bob Quinton to the budget committee.

Richard Hanners is a reporter for the Blue Mountain Eagle. He can be contacted at rick@bmeagle.com or 541-575-0710.

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