Harrison County supervisors want better oversight at the fledgling county fair and Monday they voted to hire an overseer to report to them.
“My suggestion is that we, the Board of Supervisors, hire someone to help us,” said Supervisor Marlin Ladner, who said the county doesn’t know exactly how much the fair cost taxpayers. He estimated the county spent at least $50,000 on donations of money to fair, for salaries of county employees who worked there and in-kind donations. “Somebody who knows this stuff.”
Carrie Cole, the new president of the all-volunteer Fair Association that planned and carried out last year’s fair, said it would be giving the county a check for $11,829 and would donate $1,000 to the Boy Scouts and $1,000 to the Saucier youth sports, which had all its equipment stolen from its ballfields last year. She said after making those payments the association would have more than $19,000 in “seed money” for this year’s fair.
“You had individual vendors there,” said Ladner. “Those people made money. I don’t know how much money they made. We don’t know how much money they made.”
Ladner said a person with expertise in running events could help the county make sure they were charging vendors a price that was both fair to the vendors and to taxpayers, who subsidized part of the cost of the fair. The fair used the Harrison County Farm on County Farm road and county employees provided security and other services.
“We need to be prudent,” he said. “The taxpayer as best as I can tell took about a $30,000 or $35,000 loss. We need to know how much money is going through there and what those vendors are making.
“You had 55,000 people go to the fair. I don’t know what those people spent, what the vendors got out of it.”
The success of the fair exceeded expectations and as did expenses.
“We didn’t anticipate the county having any expenses last year,” said board attorney Tim Holleman. “It got bigger than we thought it would be.”
Cole said they initially had planned for about 8,000 fairgoers. She said they expect more than 80,000 this year at the Sept. 6-10 fair.
“That’s a lot of money,” said Ladner. “Should the county consider getting some percentage from those vendors?”
That, he said, is something the person they agreed to hire should be able to answer.