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Commissioners also unsure who controls 4-H park


January 11, 2012
Having unsuccessfully gone to the county council for an answer, a group of volunteers who want to make improvements at the Crawford County Community 4-H Park south of Marengo visited the board of commissioners on Dec. 29 to determine from whom they need to seek permission.

Glenn Crecelius, Jim Elliott and Larry Archibald, among the organizers of last September's Crawford County Community Fest, want to extend water lines farther back on the property and upgrade the electrical outlets at the campsites. The inaugural four-day festival, which featured antique tractors, cars, motorcycles and more, attracted large crowds, and organizers believe it can grow.

The group has secured donations, including frost-free faucets, and plans to do the work, including digging the trenches for the water lines, itself but doesn't want to begin until it has secured permission.

The commissioners responded in much the same way as the council, saying they aren't sure.

However, District 1 Commissioner Daniel Crecelius, a member of the county council when the park was developed a decade ago, said he, like some members of the council noted at their meeting, remembers an old agreement that gave authority over the park to the Crawford County 4-H Council Inc. for two weeks a year for the annual fair, with the county, through its park board, in charge for the remaining 50 weeks a year.

Such a relationship would be needed for the county to be able to funnel money to pay back the USDA Rural Development loan used to purchase the property. Initially, the 4-H had its own tax levy to generate income to pay the loan, but the levy expired and the 4-H has had to ask the county for help. In November, the county council provided the $32,168 needed for the annual payment from county riverboat wagering tax dollars.

The problem, however, is that there doesn't appear to be a single agreement signed by all of the parties involved: commissioners, county council, park board and 4-H.

"Do you have a signed contract by all parties?" Archibald asked the commissioners' attorney, John E. Colin.

"No, I don't," Colin answered. "The question came up probably six weeks ago if there was any documentation that we had ever drafted here that had been approved by all those entities, and I don't think that's ever been requested of the commissioners. So, I don't think we have it.

"Now, whether or not there's some agreement that might exist between 4-H and some other entity, I'm not sure. That's the place that we have to begin is to understand who the players are in this thing and get them in a room and sit down and discuss these things and say, 'How are we moving forward on this?' because, if the county funds are being involved, then we have to have an agreement in place."

Archibald said rumors about dissatisfaction with any of the entities involved, including the 4-H Council, are unfounded, and his group's only goal is to get the necessary permission to make the improvements at the park.

Jim Schultz, president of the board of commissioners, asked Colin if, in the absence of a signed agreement, the commissioners could give permission. Colin answered that it would be best to wait, as he hopes to have more information by the commissioners' January meeting.

Elliott said that while the excitement level of those wanting to improve the park is high, it could wane as more time passes.

"If we don't get it resolved pretty quickly, the enthusiasm is going to die," he said.

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