News

Fair Association, city trade words over Fair Park use

By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor

Their 35-year relationship was described as a marriage during discussion at Monday’s Rockdale City Council meeting, but the city and Rockdale Fair Association are, as they say, “having problems.”

Council members tabled a prop o se d “ memor a ndu m of understanding” between the city and RFA after association board members asked for language they felt would provide advance notice in case the city disposed of property and/or buildings at the park.

The “800 pound gorilla” in the room—which was certainly on the minds of RFA members—wasn’t verbalized until Councilman Allan Miller brought it up well into the discussion.

“ We’re talking about what happened in 2005, aren’t we?” he asked.

In 2005 the city allowed construction of a skate park on RFAdonated land near the corner of Wilcox and Mill. RFA members believe that set a precedent for the city to dispose of, or render useless for Fair activities, property paid for and donated by the association.

Birk head said bank s have become more reluctant to loan the RFA money for building projects since that action.

The RFA funds and constructs buildings, and purchases property, at Fair Park, then donates them to the city at no charge.

MEMORANDUM—City Manager Kelvin Knauf said there has never been a formalized memorandum of understanding between the city and RFA, which have been working toward such an agreement for most of a year.

Knauf and City Attorney Michelle Lehmkuhl said the proposed agreement already provides a one-year notification in the event park property or buildings are sold, or otherwise disposed of, by the city.

“Obviously, we’re taking about something which might never happen,” Lehmkuhl said.

K nauf of fered an ex treme example of a scenario in which the city might dispose of Fair Park facilities.

“What if someone comes in and says, ‘I can run livestock shows every weekend and I’ll give you (the city) 20 to 25 percent of the profits’?” Knauf said.

LOANS—Birkhead said the RFA must enter into contracts with entertainers, carnivals and other Fair attractions far in advance of the October event.

“And we have taken out loans for hundreds of thousands of dollars (for major building projects), debts that will take more than a year of revenue to retire,” Birkhead said.

“We don’t want to do anything more than what we’ve been doing for the past 35 years, having Fairs, constructing buildings and donating them to the city,” Birkhead said.

“The city then can do what it wants to with the property,” he said. “We just want to know, in advance, if we’re not going to have it available.”

“If we don’t have the pavilion, the livestock barns, other facilities, we’d shut down the fair,” he said. “And that’s our source of revenue. We just don’t want to be left hanging with our signatures on some note and no way to raise revenue to pay it off.”

“ We’ve built every building at no cost to the city,” longtime RFA volunteer Rod Spence told the council. “The city hasn’t paid one crying dime. And we (the fair) bring a lot of business to this city, to its motels, restaurants and stores.”

The council tabled the matter for a workshop session.

In other business, council members:

• Tentatively accepted an interlocal agreement w ith Milam County for work on Texas Avenue, which serves Rising Star Baptist Church, conditional on details to be worked out by Knauf.

• Accepted the recommendation of its Planning & Zoning Commission and denied a variance to accommodate a storage building at 2007 O’Kelley by council member Toby Johnson.

• Appointed Allen Sanders to replace Jim Scott on the Municipal Development District (MDD) board of directors.

• Gave second-reading approval to an ordinance authorizing the city’s code enforcement officer to issue citations.

• Okayed imposing a 180 - day moratorium on oil and gas permits.

• Named Johnson the city’s representative to the Milam County Appraisal District budget committee.

• Decided to send Knauf to the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas, to be funded by the MDD.


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