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Hearing set for proposed 4-H Park lease

Agreement would pave way for county to continue making $32,168 loan payments

December 05, 2012
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners will conduct a public hearing on Dec. 18 to consider a lease agreement regarding the Crawford County 4-H Community Park.

The hearing, announced at the commissioners' regular meeting Thursday night at the judicial complex in English, will be the next step toward a resolution regarding the county's stake in the 66-1/2-acre park south of Marengo.

Questions regarding the park have surfaced in part because the county has been providing the Crawford County 4-H Council Inc. the funding needed to make the annual $32,168 payment on the USDA Rural Development loan the 4-H took out for the facility.

The 4-H originally made the loan payments with revenue from a tax levy to construct the main building at the park. However, the levy was only for five years, and the only way for the 4-H to continue generating tax income, short of constructing another building with a new levy, was to impose a lower-rate levy for maintenance of the building.

However, the county council was told in June by its attorney, Marcus Burgher IV, that the council at the time, not wanting to impose another tax levy, instead agreed, on an annual basis, to consider using the county's discretionary riverboat gaming revenue to make the USDA Rural Development loan payment.

Burgher also said that the funds were not tied to any lease agreement between the county and the 4-H. In fact, he added, no agreement had ever been signed.

It had been believed that an agreement existed between the county and the 4-H that called for the group to have exclusive use of the park during the two weeks of the fair but then lease it to the county for the other 50 weeks of the year.

For the past couple of months, Jim Schultz, president of the board of commissioners, and Terry Allen of the 4-H Council have been working on a proposed lease agreement. To satisfy both county and State Board of Accounts concerns that the county is getting something for its money, the agreement calls for the county to lease the park for most of the year but provide year-round space for the county's Emergency Management Agency office.

County attorney John E. Colin said that, with a proposed lease agreement in hand, the next steps are to secure a petition signed by 50 Crawford County taxpayers supporting it and for the 4-H Council to approach the county council to determine if the lease is needed.

He said that, once both of those have happened, state law requires the commissioners to conduct a public hearing. However, it must be at least 10 days after publication of the proposed lease. With it appearing in the Public Notices of this week's newspaper, the soonest the hearing could be is Dec. 15.

However, instead of waiting until their regular monthly meeting on Dec. 31, the commissioners, realizing the 4-H Council already is past due on this year's USDA loan payment, scheduled the public hearing for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the judicial complex.

"We're very eager to move forward with that agreement," Allen told the commissioners, adding that the 4-H Council anticipates having the 50 petition signatures this week.

The 4-H Council will approach the county council at its next meeting, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at the judicial complex.

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