Commissioners urged to consider fairgrounds director

Robert Smith
Pawhuska Journal-Capital

Osage County resident Jerry Butterbaugh on March 27 encouraged county commissioners to consider appointing a director to manage the county fairgrounds.

Butterbaugh is a retiree from the Fairfax area who serves on the board of the Osage County Historical Society Museum, and the board of the Osage County Industrial Authority. He also is active in a group that recently has formed for the purpose of encouraging the revitalization of the town of Fairfax. The group is called Friends of Fairfax. Butterbaugh has been a regular attendee at meetings of the Board of County Commissioners for a number of years.

Butterbaugh on March 27 reminded the current county commissioners during the end-of-meeting comment period that the idea to appoint a director for the fairgrounds had come up last year, and he praised the idea. Boards of commissioners have previously appointed “caretakers” to serve as their liaisons in managing the fairgrounds, but Butterbaugh seemed to have in mind the creation of a position that would be invested with greater authority to develop the economic viability of the fairgrounds.

“It might be worthwhile to appoint a director,” he said.

District 2 Commissioner Steve Talburt, the current chairman of the county board, said he and his colleagues are “on-board to make this (the fairgrounds) the best it can be.” District 1 Commissioner Everett Piper characterized the potential appointment of a director for the fairgrounds as a budget issue. The board did not commit to anything, but the commissioners have demonstrated sensitivity in recent weeks to the issue of trying to increase revenue generated by activities at the fairgrounds.

Butterbaugh told the Journal-Capital later that there are several areas of concern that should probably be addressed in terms of the fairgrounds as a facility. He mentioned road access, the sufficiency or insufficiency of existing grandstands, and the problem of heat relief for persons attending events.

“It is a tremendous opportunity for growth, for both Pawhuska and the county, and it helps everybody and it is positive,” Butterbaugh said of encouraging improvements at the fairgrounds and increased activity there.

Another bit of encouragement that Osage County commissioners have received to make improvements at the fairgrounds is the recent report by the state Auditor and Inspector’s office on the status of the fairgrounds. The Auditor and Inspector’s office performed a review of the facility as former District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones was leaving the county board and new District 1 Commissioner Evrertt Piper was coming onto the board.

The audit report on the fairgrounds included the finding that Osage County did not have adequate policies and procedures in place to ensure the accurate reporting of fixed assets at the facility. Talburt, as board chairman, replied that the county had hired a full-time employee to assist in maintaining fairgrounds records.

“Monthly inspection of the fixed assets will be done to ensure there are no discrepancies or missing fixed assets,” Talburt also told the Auditor and Inspector’s office.

Activities at the fairgrounds range from relatively small local fundraising efforts to major rodeo events. For instance, a professional bronc-riding event is scheduled for April 14.