(CBS4) – The Jefferson County Fairgrounds Advisory board meeting has never had a turnout as big as Tuesday night’s. The community recently learned the entire fate of the historic fairgrounds will be determined over the next few weeks.
More than 100 people crammed into a meeting room at the fairgrounds Tuesday night for a chance to tell County Manager Don Davis why they believe the property should be saved.
In a news release Tuesday, the county said it was forced to cut $16.1 million from its 2020 General Fund budget following last year’s decision by voters not to approve Ballot Initiative 1A.
While county commissioners said they will consider an alternative to closing the fairgrounds, Davis told the crowd Tuesday the cost recovery wasn’t high enough to make any other option work.
Initially, the county suggested moving the fairgrounds to its enterprise fund. This would remove the fairgrounds from the general fund and require the fairgrounds to become a self-sustaining operation.
Stakeholders argued Tuesday that “self-sustaining” was an impossible task for any fairground.
Davis pushed back, arguing he was on the same page as those in attendance but felt the need to come to the defense of commissioners.
“They know that the future of our community is in our kids. They know that absolutely.”
While Davis only planned to inform the crowd and listen to public comment, he ultimately agreed to answer the many questions that continued to arise.
“This is an evacuation site for livestock, for horses in the county, that is an essential service when those events happens … how can you not consider this an essential service?” asked one Jeffco resident.
The biggest point of contention Tuesday night revolved around the youth programs and the long-term benefits they have for the individual and the community. While a handful at Tuesday’s meeting weren’t old enough to vote for or against 1A, Davis agreed he would listen until everyone had a chance to comment — or ask a question.
“Right now, up that hill in that indoor arena, we have 22 kids practicing team roping. Rodeo is alive and well in Jefferson County and I don’t want a single one of you to believe otherwise,” said Caiden Flynn, President of the Jefferson County High School Rodeo.
Flynn was one of the younger but more forceful voices in the room Tuesday and didn’t hesitate to take advantage of his time with the county manager.
“Our sponsors have no confidence in us. We go up to our sponsors as kids and we ask them if they’re willing to support us and help us out while we’re chasing our dreams and we’re supposed to go up to them and ask them if they will give us money for a rodeo that might not be here this time next year? How on earth are we supposed to do that?”
Mark Skelton, Chairman of the Jefferson County Advisory Board, told Davis he felt there was a lack of transparency.
“The goal has always been to be self-sustaining,” Davis told Skelton.
Davis continued to say that the advisory board had a couple of weeks to present a solution if they wanted to try and delay a decision — not a fair amount of time from Skelton’s perspective.
The Jefferson County Board of Commissioners will meet on Feb. 4 to go over final options.
Davis said a decision will likely be made Feb. 11 but encouraged those concerned with the future of the fairgrounds, to write letters to county commissioners and/or submit a comment.