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Council Decides Against Land Purchase

Picture of the land the council has been considering for purchase.  The property line of the strip of land is marked by a stake circled in red.  The fence that marks the current fairgrounds boundary is to the left.
Article Date: 
4 March, 2011 - 06:00

In the council meeting on Tuesday the council remained deadlocked on the issue of the land purchase from the school district, effectively killing the land purchase.  Members Ned Mecham, Don Mathews, and Howard Hansen were in favor of the purchase, Members Ronda Kippen, Lyle Nelson and Chairman Tina Kelly were opposed.  Member Kilmer chose to abstain.  The issue needs four votes to proceed.  
During the public comment period several members of the community, including members of the Fair Board, requested that the council take action to purchase the land and pointed out opportunities in the long run to relocate some of the animal facilities to this ground to create a better overall experience at the fair grounds.  The three members who were opposed remained unconvinced.
Chairman Kelley showed photos of the land and said that the narrowness of the strip of land was a deciding factor.  She expressed the view that while it could accommodate additional parking that the additional space would be limited by the narrow dimensions of the land.  Member Nelson also said that he had reviewed the master plan for the fair grounds and felt that additional parking could be created with some modest changes to the existing land.  Member Mecham commented that  the time was right and the price would only rise with time.  Member Mathews indicated that he had consulted friends in the real estate business who indicated that the deal was a good one for the county.
The surprising part of the meeting was that not only did the county not approve a purchase, but they did not approve an agreement with the school board to use the land.  The school board has offered to allow the county to use the ground for five years if the county participated in half the cost of the fence.  The council did not take action on this item.  
The school board has expressed impatience with pace of council decisions.  In the last school board meeting the opinion was expressed that if the county did not act that the school board would fence the property to protect the bus facility and that the ground would not be available for the county to use.  It is not clear if this is the direction the school board will take given the lack of action by the council.