Fair Seeks to End Deficit

Tom Ash, a member of the Door County Fair Board, appeared before the county’s Administrative Committee on Dec. 9 to request the county provide another $15,000 to the fair annually in order to offset an annual loss the fair registers after paying for three county services, including security services from the Door County Sheriff’s Department, grading and other services by the Door County Highway Dept. and the Parks Dept. for utilities.

“I’m here to plead that we start looking outside the box and figure out how to fund the fair,” Ash said.

Ash first appeared before the Airport and Parks Committee on Dec. 5 to talk about where to make cuts so the fair doesn’t end up with the perennial $15,000 deficit, and where it was decided the fair should seek an additional $15,000 from the county to pay for the county services.

Administrative Committee member Richard Virlee serves as chair of the Airport & Parks Committee, and Ken Fisher also serves on both committees. They thought it prudent to bring the issue before the Administrative Committee for its support before going to the Finance Committee.

Both Ash and Virlee pointed out that with the continued deficit, the fair will deplete its surplus in three years, or in one rainy year.

Ash said the Fair Board looked at cutting entertainment, which goes against a report by a now disbanded Ad Hoc Fair Committee, which called for more entertainment options at a lower cost.

The Fair Board did decide to go back to its old way of marketing the fair, which is having Ash contact advertising outlets, rather than hiring an expensive marketing firm, which the fair had done the past two years.

County Board Supervisor and Administrative Committee Chairman Dan Austad said businesses looking to cut costs look at advertising first, which is always a bad idea.

“We’re not going to cut the advertising budget, we’re just cutting out the middleman,” Ash said.

Ash said the county provides $32,000 annually for the fair, but the fair repays about $20,000 of that.

Virlee said the Airport & Parks Committee voted unanimously to provide an extra $15,000 to the fair so it isn’t saddled with a deficit after paying for county services.

“They’re part of the county and the county wants to have a fair. We don’t want it to die,” Virlee said.

There was some discussion about who attends the fair, and all agreed that the annual 12,000 in attendance are mostly locals, and young locals at that.

“This is for the people of this community,” said Fisher. “We spend all kinds of money and never second-guess it when it’s for the tourists. Granted there’s a lot of money that comes in there. But these are the people, and the young people, of this community…I say give them an extra $15,000 a year. It’s not going to hurt us. It’s not going to bankrupt the county. Do the right thing.”

“I question why you brought it to the Administrative Committee and not the Finance Committee,” Austad said. “The Finance Committee is really the one to be deciding.”

“It is going to go there, Mr. Chairman, but we wanted to get the word out,” Fisher said. Virlee added that they were hoping from support from the Administrative Committee to give it added weight when it goes before the Finance Committee at 1 pm on Monday, Dec. 15. The committee did offer its support for the idea with a unanimous vote.

The committee also discussed the hiring process for the county administrator position and for the position of finance director. The county administrator position became vacant in November when Maureen Murphy, who had been hired two years before, left to take the job as executive director of the Volunteer Center of Door County, a post she held only a few weeks before taking the job as human resources director for Washington County. Corporation Counsel Grant Thomas was named to serve as interim administrator, a position he is familiar with, having served as interim director between the firing of Administrator Michael Serpe in early 2012 and the hiring of Murphy that fall.

Shirley Scalish is retiring as finance director on Jan. 16, after almost 14 years in that position. Assistant Finance Director Mark Janiak will serve as interim director until a new director is hired.

At its November meeting, the Administrative Committee discussed the possibility of hiring a headhunting firm to assist in landing a new county administrator. Human Resources Director Kelly Hendee found that would cost about $20,000.

Austad said the county could handle the search without a headhunting firm, however, they are going to hire a firm for $1,200 to come up with an evaluation process for prospective candidates.