The Henry County Fair Board is hoping to take advantage of grant money included in the state budget for improvements to fairgrounds.

Henry County Fair Board Treasurer Wayne Michaelis met with the Henry County commissioners Thursday morning to discuss projects the board would like to do with the funds. The state budget includes a grant of up to $50,000 per year, with a 100% local match, for fairgrounds.

Michaelis said the fair board has signed a notice to the Ohio Department of Agriculture that it wants to pursue the additional state funds, so that would be $100,000 in projects each year for the next two years. In addition, he said the board will pursue a $10,000 grant from the Ohio Harness Horseman’s Association which also has a local match.

“That’s $240,000 over the next two years that we could make some major improvements,” Michaelis said.

One of the projects the fair board is considering is adding heat and air conditioning in the new ag hall building. A preliminary estimate from Ohio Gas Co. to bring in a gas line is $20,000 and, while they don’t have a quote yet on heating and/or air conditioning, Michaelis said that total project would likely cost between $50,000-$75,000.

Michaelis noted the Henry County Junior Fair raised almost $7,000 toward the pouring of concrete in the 4-H small animal barn last year, with the fair board paying for the remainder. Blacktop was already added on one side, and Michaelis said they would like to pour concrete out to the street in 2020. In addition, a new roof is being considered for that building, with initial costs projected at $16,000.

Junior Fair members are also raising money to put toward the planned improvements to the 4-H building this year. The cost is approximately $20,000.

“Junior Fair is really good at trying to help raise money,” Michaelis said, adding that project is moving ahead. “The Junior Fair is helping to raise that, and the (4-H) Advisory Council is doing that. The fair board will end up helping out.”

Michaelis said the 4-H Building project was inspired by the work done last year in the Floral Hall, and Henry County Commissioner Bob Hastedt suggested opening some of the windows in the Floral Hall to improve air circulation.

Michaelis said they have $1,000 set aside to go toward possibly automatic windows or a pull rope system to open the windows to help with that issue, but there are also issues with the windows.

“Right now some of the windows are painted shut and some are kind of warped,” he said.

Another potential project is repairing fence along the back stretch of the race track at an estimated cost of $15,000-$30,000.

“It’s an old wooden fence, and some of the 4x4s are rotted off,” he said.

Another need identified is lighting around the race track as many of the lights are no longer working.

“We’ve been using portable generators for the last three to four years, but we got a bid a couple of years ago and that was over $200,000 just to light around the track,” Michaelis said. “It’s a project somewhere down the road that hopefully we can get to.”

Michaelis noted the fair board has been helped in recent years by additional funds to pay for purses for harness racing.

“With the racinos in the State of Ohio, there’s a little bit of that money coming back to the racing circuit, and so the Ohio Horsemen’s (Association) divvies that up to the fairgrounds across the state to help pay for the purses, so that has helped us tremendously to not have to pay for that two nights out of our own general fund,” he said.

Overall, Michaelis said the projects add up quickly.

“With all of the different projects we have going on, it’s not going to take long to spend $240,000,” he said.

Michaelis said while the fair board typically receives around $7,000 per year from the county commissioners, they are requesting $30,000 per year for the next two years to help with the matching funds for the grant.

Henry County commissioners Bob Hastedt and Glenn Miller said they will look into the request, and Miller added the commissioners should be receiving funds back next year which they used to front a project and that could possibly be a source of funds.

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