YORK – It’s been a long time since the county has signed an actual lease with the York County Ag Society, although the arrangement has existed since the 1940s. Now, the county is drafting an actual agreement with the entity, to better spell out the details for the long-term as well as to revisit some areas of the property that aren’t being used now.
York County Chairman Randy Obermier explained to his fellow board members this week how the “agreement had been overlooked, the lease had been overlooked for many, many years. The county has been leasing the fairgrounds land to the ag society for decades, but we found the actual lease agreement had expired a long time ago.
“The future of the soccer fields is that the city is taking over the care of that, so I felt we needed to update our lease with the ag society,” Obermier said.
The city will be subleasing the soccer fields from the ag society, which holds the lease with the county – as the property is actually owned by the county. Therefore, Obermier thought now should be the time to solidify the paperwork between the county and the ag society.
In doing so, Obermier proposed some changes.
“I’m asking that we release from that lease the property on which the extension office and probation office exist, as well as the portion by the county shop so we can expand the yard for more rock/gravel storage and to maybe move that old shop shed in Benedict to the county grounds here,” Obermier said. “These spaces are not being used by the ag society anyway. I personally don’t think we need to exchange any money for the lease. I know they have some concerns so my idea is that if a future county board would try to change it, we could put into the lease they would have to pay the ag society for the buildings on the fairgrounds. What are the thoughts from the board?”
“As far as the terms when it comes to length, I agree a 10-year term is reasonable, to be renewed at the end of the 10 years and so on,” said Commissioner Daniel Grotz. “I don’t know that an unended lease needs to happen, we could do it for this term and then auto-renew at the 10-year mark.”
Grotz also referred to a comment made by a county property owner during the recent “pink postcard meeting” in which the person asked if the county had any avenues for generating revenue.
“I don’t know if charging for the fair to be there is something we’d ever want to get into,” Grotz said. “But this is land the county does own, and my question is if there is any potential for revenue with that ground the fair isn’t currently using? Mainly the soccer fields and the space behind the county shop. The city’s agreed to take over the soccer fields; and behind the shop, another use for that I’m not sure. I do have some reservations in leasing it out to the ag society and then allowing the ag society to sublease it out when the county owns the land.”
“The ag society does provide a service,” Commissioner Woody Ziegler said. “I’m more inclined to not look at revenue with this. And it is the York County Fair, not the York County Ag Society Fair.”
“I just thought we should talk about it, for the future,” Grotz said. “I don’t think it’s great big money they are receiving for the subleases, but it is revenue.”
“They do make revenue off the other buildings on the fairgrounds too, through renting out the event center and allowing vehicle storage,” Obermier said. “That revenue is then used to maintain the free fair they put on each year.”
The commissioners agreed to draw up a 10-year renewable lease with the statement that if the county ever negates the lease in the future, the county would compensate the ag society for fair market value of the buildings.
“As far as the subleasing, I can understand their need to control the use of the land around the land used for the county fair,” Grotz said. “But this property, not used for the fair, could be monetized and the county is letting that revenue go away. It is money we could be allowing to slip through our fingers.”
“I think we need to have say in their sub-leasing,” said Commissioner Stan Boehr.
“That was written into the old lease,” Obermier noted.
Ziegler said as far as the county board reviewing the subleases the ag society signs for that land, “I think that is fine as a point of information.”
The board agreed the ag society would need to bring forward their sublease agreements with other parties.
“Maybe there could be a shared revenue on the leasing?” Grotz said further. “I don’t know at what percentage. If, let’s say, someone leases ground for $2,000, and then the county would get a share of that. They would still have control of the leasing and a portion of the revenue for their care of it.”
“Does the majority of this board want to get revenue for the subleases?” Obermier asked.
Boehr, Commissioner Jack Sikes, Ziegler and Obermier said no, it shouldn’t be a source of revenue for the county. So that aspect will not be written into the lease agreement. No money will be collected by the county for leasing out this property.
They will be including in the lease that the county is not a liable party for any subleased property there.
And in lieu of a lease payment to the county, the ag society will continue to mow the area around the extension and probation offices.
All the commissioners – with the exception of Grotz – voted yes to move forward with the agreement with those terms.
The document will be drawn up by the county attorney’s office and brought back to the county board for final approval.