McPherson County Commissioners met with McPherson County K-State Extension personnel to discuss what could be done with the 4-H building Tuesday.
“We have talked about this for so long. I remember sitting in this room numerous times and dreaming big and talking about what would be nice on these fairgrounds,” Jana McKinney, extension agent, said. “At some point we need to really think this is a reflection back on McPherson County.”
McKinney said, to her knowledge, major improvements to the fairgrounds has not happened since 1986.
Dale Ladd, extension agent, said there are several maintenance issues right now including the double doors on the east side that do not completely close, rotting windows, the stage needing new carpet and the men’s bathrooms not being ADA-compliant.
At the 4-H beef show earlier this month, McKinney noticed that the grounds provide no showers and that the north women’s restrooms are in desperate need of updating.
“I know dollars are an issue and I know it hard to find those moneys to make those improvements. But at some point we have to stop talking at it and start putting action to it,” McKinney said.
Rick Witte, county administrator, suggested that commissioners also consider if the 4-H building is worth salvaging. The cost of the renovations could be close to the cost of building a new structure, Witte said.
As for the possibility of grant funding, Becky Goss, executive director for the McPherson County Community Foundation, said it’s not likely because McPherson’s population is too weathly to qualify for rural development funds.
Goss said McPherson does qualify for loans and the possibility of grants for pieces of the building. She also mentioned the possibility of a Community Development Block Grant, similar to the one MCDS received, although the state may not be giving out any money.
Goss said if the county does apply for a grant or loan, it will need to provide how much the building will be used, who will use it and show support from the community.
Those at the meeting discussed the many community organizations that use the 4-H Building. Commissioner Harris Terry said McPherson County doesn’t have any other place like the fairgrounds.
Kendra Baehler, extension agent, noted that although the building is called the 4-H Building, 4-H’ers don’t use it as often as the community.
Terry suggested talking to the city about using the 4-H Building as a community center and utilizing city funds as well. Terry thinks the mayor would be open to discussing it.
“The focus needs to be more than just a 4-H building,” Terry said.
Baehler said she, along with other county agents, are trying to increase the number of 4-H’ers, which would create a need for more space during the annual county fair.
Commissioner Ron Loomis said one of his constituents suggested adding a sales tax to pay for renovations. Goss mentioned that the county would have to “get in line,” especially with the state talking about increasing the sales tax.
The rental fee could be raised to help pay the loan, although, Terry said that might deter some possible renters.
Commissioner Duane Patrick is going to look into possibility of a applying for grant moneys. Goss will look at other options through rural development for loans or grants.