The group that runs the beer garden at the Great Northern Fair each year asked for some changes in their contract, including signing a seven- to 10-year contract for the activity, during sometimes sharp discussion at this week's Hill County Fair Board meeting.
Board member Peggy Nivens said that during a meeting Sunday between the Havre Youth Baseball Association and a board committee to discuss fixing a fence around the beer garden, association representatives said the bids they had received for that work were from $15,000 to $20,000. The association asked that they be given a longer contract — now it is renewed annually — to guarantee they can recoup that expense.
Nivens said the association plans to buy wood to temporarily repair the fence for this fair, and would start work on replacing the fence this fall.
Association President Brittnee DeLaRosa said the baseball group would like to know it would have the activity before it spends the cash.
“It would be hard to put any kind of money into the fence without knowing that it’s ours, ” she said.
She added that the money the association makes goes back into the community, and its profits have dropped. Last year the baseball group made about $5,300 she said.
“We need to make sure kids can play baseball in Havre, ” DeLaRosa said.
Board Chair Tom Farnham said having a multi-year contract could be reasonable, but not for seven to 10 years. Especially in times of budget cuts, the board can't project out even five years, he said.
Board member Missy Boucher agreed, saying she would not like to see a contract for more than three years.
She added that, if the board offers a long-term contract to one group, other groups might start asking for the same treatment.
“I think if we’re going to take things out that long we’re opening up a whole ’nother can of worms, ” Boucher said.
Fairgrounds Manager Tim Solomon also disputed the amounts cited. He said he has two of the bids on the fence, one for about $4,000 and one for about $5,000.
DeLaRosa and association Vice President Kelly Compton said those are not bids for the complete project, and don't include teardown and cleanup of the existing fence, concrete foundations for the fence posts and other supplies such as screws.
Solomon said he would do the teardown and eliminate that expense. He said he doubts the other supplies would cost more than several hundred dollars.
“I think we need to talk real numbers instead of inflating them a little bit, ” he said.
Nivens listed several other requests the association made at Sunday’s meeting, including removing the requirements that the baseball group clean under the bleachers at the arena and that it not be required to police the bleachers during events.
Compton said another problem was that the association just received its contract, just weeks before the fair.
Solomon said he does not know how that happened — he understood that the association contract was mailed out with all the others. He said after the meeting that as soon as he found out the association had not received its paperwork, he took a new copy to the group.
After being told that many other groups would like to operate the beer garden, the baseball association representatives reiterated their concern that they be given a multi-year contract.
“You’re not going to kick the Lions booth out, ” DeLaRosa said.
“We’re not trying to kick anyone out, ” Solomon responded. “I’m just asking you to maintain … the area. ”
Farnham said that, as all would remain the same for the 2011 Great Northern Fair, the discussion on changes in the contract and on entering a multi-year contract should be brought up again in August.