Despite legal counsel to the contrary, Utah County commissioners are expected to financially bail out the county fair board to the tune of $24,340.
"We're basically at the mercy of you people," board Chairman Alvin Kilmer told commissioners this week. "We don't know where to turn from here."Citing a number of factors - including bad weather, the fair's Spanish Fork location and insufficient funding - Kilmer said the fair came up short this year and needs $23,340 to pay off a variety of vendors and advertisers.
"Basically, the problem was that we went underfunded. We never really know what our income's going to be until it occurs, and that's one of the problems" with producing the fair.
Because the fair board was incorporated four years ago as an independent, non-profit entity, Utah County has no legal obligation to pay its debts. Earlier this year, the commission contributed $10,000 to the fair board.
"The first problem I see with Utah County paying off these overdue bills is that it constitutes a ratification of the feeling held by many of the creditors that the fair board is actually a part of Utah County," Deputy County Attorney Michael Mack said in a written legal opinion.
Mack said some vendors extended credit because fair board agents told the creditors that Utah County would back payment.
"This reliance by creditors is unfortunate, but it certainly doesn't legally obligate the county," he said. "Furthermore, if the County Commission decides that once again they will pick up the check, what is to stop the very same process from recurring next year?"
Mack also expressed concern about the fair board's incorporated status, which was suspended in July because of failure to file an annual tax report.
"If, in fact, the fair board doesn't cure its tax problems and revive its corporate standing, the debts it has incurred could likely become obligations of the individuals who entered into the unpaid contracts," Mack said. "This is a scenario I'm sure none of us wants to see take place, but if it does, it would best serve Utah County to be as far removed as possible."
If Utah County persists in paying off the fair board's debts, he said, "The entire burden could shift to Utah County."
Commissioner Brent Morris said it's time the county put the fair board on notice that "we absolutely will not contribute or participate at all in the future."
The fair board continues to ignore commission efforts to financially wean the fair, Commissioner Gary Anderson said. He said bills should be paid before paying fair personnel.
"If we bail them out, why not the Pageant of the Arts or the Utah Valley Symphony? If we start that type of procedure, we've got a problem."
Kilmer said the county fair needs a permanent location where it can be self-supporting. He suggested a committee be organized to study the fair's future and to develop suggestions on a better location.