By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Former Hill County Sheriff Tim Solomon will take over as manager of the Hill County Fairgrounds.
Solomon will fill the vacancy left by Mike Spencer, who announced his resignation last month after nine years on the job. The Great Northern Fair Board selected Solomon Wednesday night after an interview process that lasted several hours, said fair board president Jerry Hanson.
Solomon said he is looking forward to managing the Great Northern Fair.
"There are some real challenges up there," he said. "(The fair board members) were confidant in my abilities and I'm happy to have the job."
Solomon, who beat out two other finalists for the position, will take over Thursday. Hanson said he is satisfied with the board's selection and is confidant that Solomon will quickly adjust to the new job. The former sheriff is better qualified than the other candidates in a number of areas, he added.
Solomon retired in November 2001 after 15 years as Hill County sheriff and 27 years working in the sheriff's office.
Solomon said one of the biggest challenges facing the fair board is finding the best way to provide seating at the fairgrounds. The dilapidated grandstand and several sections of bleachers were torn down earlier this year after an engineering firm found serious structural problems during an evaluation.
Replacing the structures could take several years and cost as much as $500,000. Several events this summer will require audiences to bring their own seats or force the fair board to rent temporary bleachers.
The seven-member fair board is considering two main options to raise money: convincing voters to support a mill levy or taking out a loan.
Commissioner Pat Conway said that asking voters to support increased taxes through a levy is a tough sell, and that county residents may be more likely to support a loan. The county could incur a $500,000 loan if authorized by voters.
The 2004 primary ballot is the earliest the community could approve a loan or a mill levy, as it was determined that conducting a mail-out ballot would be too expensive.
The county would have to receive quotes to find the lowest interest rate for a loan, Conway said.
The fair board is also seeking a grant to help offset the cost of the bleachers, Conway said. Bear Paw Development Corp. is working to secure a grant of $50,000 for the county. The grant requires a county match of $50,000. Spencer, who announced his resignation as fairgrounds manager March 18, is a teacher at Sunnyside Intermediate School.
"It was just time for a change for me," he said shortly after the announcement. "I've done it for nine years and it was time for something different."
Solomon said Spencer has been very supportive.
"I've just been trying to learn the job," Solomon said. "Mike has been more than willing to help me out."
Spencer's resignation was followed in short hand by that of fair board member and former fair board president Tom Farnham. Farnham, a nine-year fair board veteran, resigned April 15. He told the board that he could no longer meet the time commitment required by the position.
His tenure on the the fair board was enjoyable, Farnham said Monday.
"I just thought it was time for me to step down to a new person with new ideas," he said. "I have a lot of other commitments to fulfill," he added. Farnham, who manages the Eagles Club in Havre, also serves on the Havre City Council.
The Hill County Commission will appoint a replacement for Farnham sometime after May 15, Hanson said. Interested parties have one month after a position becomes open to apply for the job. Fair board members are appointed to either two- or three-year terms.