Tooele County fair back after being canceled due to budget crisis

Published: Wednesday, March 12 2014 2:00 p.m. MDT

Officials in Tooele County say the county fair is back this year. This comes after a terrible financial year in 2013, where budget cuts forced the cancellation of the fair and led to more than 70 county employees being laid off.

Mark Wetzel, Deseret News

TOOELE — Budget shortfalls forced Tooele County to cancel its fair last year, but things are looking up and the fair is back.

“I’m glad it’s coming back,” said Mark McKendrick, the county's parks and recreation director. “It was a real disappointment for a lot of people last year, including myself, and we’re just glad it’s coming back. It’s tradition.”

County officials say they're looking at a more balanced budget, and soon residents will be enjoying rides, games and good old-fashioned fair food. The fair is scheduled to run July 31-Aug. 2.

"It'll be here. You can have all the calories you need,” joked Tooele County Commissioner Jerry Hurst.

Budget cuts led to many county programs being eliminated, and events such as the fair were canceled last year.

“No, it was not a fun year at all,” McKendrick said. "It was pretty devastating. We lost 17 full-time employees.”

More than 70 county employees were laid off.

"We had a dose of reality when the cash cow got sick. It didn't die, but it got sick," Hurst said.

That cash cow included mitigation fees from the Tooele Army Depot and EnergySolutions to get rid of old chemical weapons and toxic materials. Combine that with the recession and no property tax increases for 27 years, and something had to give.

"As the county treasurer put it, it was the perfect storm,” Hurst said.

County leaders held several meetings over the past year and trimmed the budget to a more manageable position.

McKendrick says four of the workers who were laid off last year have been rehired.

“They are in different roles than they were before,” he said, “but at least we were able to bring them back. I think it shows things are getting better — maybe not to the point where we were, and we’ll probably never get back to that point, but we’re better off now than we were last year.”

Email: acabrero@deseretnews.com

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