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Fair board plan to contract manager position nixed


Great Northern Fair Board Chair Tyler Smith said Tuesday at the board’s monthly meeting that the board will be unable to hire a fairground manager as an independent contractor as previously planned.

“It was this board’s intent to hire fair manager as a independent contractor position,” Smith said. “… We originally had received word from the numerous powers that be that it would be OK, then it gets to time to draw up the contract and it’s not OK. So that position will go back to being a regular county position like it has been in the past with some changes.”

The board approved at a special meeting May 9 offering the job to applicant Frank English as a contractor position.

Hill County Commissioner Diane McLean said Tuesday that the confusion with the title of the manager position was because the county attorney did not describe what would be needed to do to set it up as a contractor position.

“While she did not say you cannot hire that way, she did not actually go through and say this is what it needs to look like,” she said.

McLean said the job description went to the state Department of Labor, which informed the Hill County Commission that the job description does not fit the contractor model parameters.

“They were just like, ‘You’re going to be in trouble if you go that way because it’s not truly a contractor thing,’” she said.

Smith said that if the manager was also doing similar work for other counties, then the position could be seen as an independent contractor.

McLean added that contractor also normally provides bids for jobs but how the board was approaching the matter was more in an employer and employee format.

“This actually should be a better fit,” she said.

Having the manager as a county employee, they are eligible for health care and can also be exempted from the county health care plan, she said, adding that it is still an improvement to the position.

“What was being looked at was not the only way to do it,” she said. “… I do believe we are finally on a good path, a better path.”

McLean added that she hopes that English is still interested in the position.

Smith said that the miscommunication between the board and the county was unfortunate but understandable.

“It’s unfortunate but we’re understanding and we’re doing the best we can, we’re just going to move forward,” he said.

Smith said that some of the changes that the board will be making to the fairgrounds manager position is that the manager will be full-time for four months of the year, May through August, and will be three-quarter-time for the rest of the year.

The change will keep the manager’s employment within the budget the board had previously agreed upon for the contracting salary, he said.

He said the board will also have to conduct a formal county interview for the applicant and approve the hiring committee’s recommendation to hire the manager. He said this will be done at a special meeting because of the need to fill the manager position.

The board was also recommended to adopt a job description template which the board will need to review, Smith said. He added that the board can make adjustments to the template if needed.

Museum Board’s farm equipment

Following some contention about who owns what and who is responsible for what at the fairgrounds, H. Earl and Margaret Turner Clack Memorial Museum Foundation President Elaine Morse told the board Tuesday that the fair board and the museum board should work together moving forward.

“We both answer to the county commissioners, so it should be us and us,” she said.

After the fair board proposed doing some events with the Great Northern Railway caboose on the fairgrounds, the H. Earl Clack Memorial Museum Board informed the fair board that the caboose belonged to the museum. That has led to over several months of discussion of which entity is responsible for what at the fairgrounds, including the museum’s Faber Schoolhouse and Homestead Shack and antique farming equipment on the fairgrounds.

The boards have had a long history of agreements and understandings, Morse said.

The caboose was donated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe to the city of Havre, which was then donated to the museum board. She added that the board has the paperwork to verify ownership. But that does not mean the board is not open to negotiations with the Fair Board to utilize the caboose.

“If you guys want to do something different with it or use it or something, I think officially we need to just agree on it,” she said. “I don’t think we want any problems with it.”

When the museum board moved in the 1990s the museum from its location on the fairgrounds to the Heritage Center — now the Historic Havre Post Office — the board gave the fair board that building, which is under construction to be the new fairgrounds office, and the campground, the garage and some lawn equipment, she said.

At the time, the campground and the gift shop in the museum was a big money maker for the museum board, collecting approximately $10,000 for the county. The fair board agreed to offset the costs to the museum by giving a tenth of a mill in its county budget to the museum board for 10 years.

Over the years, the two boards have also made a number of informal agreements, some of which have been honored for years, she said. But because the boards are both made up of volunteers, information has been lost over the years as the boards and the county commissioners turn over to new generations.

“I don’t want there to be any antagonism between two boards because we should be on the same side,” she said.

Morse added that the museum board is requesting storing some antique farm equipment at the fairgrounds while the board is still working on setting up the new museum location. The farm equipment, donated by Pam and Austin Johnson, is approximately 10 pieces and will be stored indefinitely against the fence on the east side of the school building. It will be off the road and will be the museum board’s responsibility to maintain.

“We are all volunteers in this trying to make this a better community, and so I don’t think anything is being done out of hostility or animus, but it’s like ‘Can’t we work together?’” she said.

Smith said that the board would like a memorandum of understanding for the fair board to approve to store the equipment in addition to a memorandum of understanding of stating understanding on ground rules between both boards and agreed on by both boards.

4-H and the beer garden

The board approved plans to install a new sidewalk by the new 4-H Chuckwagon building.

4-H volunteer Becky Miller presented the board with the rough plan of the project including building a sidewalk around the perimeter of the building, this year with handrails and steps. The plans also include future plans for construction of a patio as well as ramps for the garage.

“I am excited,” Smith said.

The board also approved lowering the payment for the Havre Youth Baseball Association as well as extending the hours of the beer garden.

Fair board member Chelby Gooch said that after speaking with Havre Youth Baseball Association, which operates the fairgrounds beer garden, they have decided to rewrite the contract for the association lowering the percentage paid to the fair from 25 percent to 15 percent.

She added that the association is a non-profit and is the only non-profit at the fairground that was being changed more. Gooch said the association is also a good steward and is responsible for maintaining and operating the beer garden.

The association has been responsible for the beer garden’s security and should be able to operate the beer garden until 1 a.m., she said.

Havre Youth Baseball Association member Frank Leeds added that in addition to extending the beer garden’s hours the association would also like to invest in the beer garden and extend its contract. He said that the association does not currently have any specific plans but will develop them and update the board on its progress.


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