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20-year fair lease approved

Another two decades of East Otter Tail County fairs were, in effect, approved by the Perham City Council Nov. 10.

Approved by the council was a lease with the Perham Agricultural Society (fair board) that will continue to the year 2028. The 32-acre parcel has been owned by the city since 1910, and is leased to the fair board.

The fair board agreed to the 12-point document, but board member Dr. Bill Rose raised concerns over two passages in the lease.

"The city reserves the right to adjust the boundaries and acreage of said property, provided that the adjustment does not include any area with new buildings constructed...and as far as the Society still has a reasonable ability to conduct a fair."

Rose felt that the language in that passage restricted the fair board's negotiation power.

With the city owning the property, the council is already in a superior negotiating position, said Rose. The concern was that, with the council's authority to adjust boundaries, it could inhibit the fair board from certain improvements.

But City Attorney Dennis Happel said that, because the lease is 20 years, the current council really can't tie the hands of future councils for that long.

"Councils change, people change," said Mayor Kevin Keil. "From the city's standpoint, we need some leeway...We're not trying to be bullies, we know how important the fair is to the community."

Rose expressed a minor concern with another passage regarding construction of new facilities. Since the council has the jurisdiction to approve any new construction, Rose felt it was redundant. The council agreed to delete the line in the lease.

Rose was complimentary of a new clause in the lease, which will require that one council member be appointed to the society's board.

Fair board will not move baseball diamond

Several planning items were discussed at the recent Fair Task Force meeting.

Among them, a decision that the baseball diamond will not be relocated. The move was being considered as a means to redevelop the west side of the fairgrounds.

The property along Highway 78 is underutilized, concluded the fair board, but under the new lease, no new buildings will be allowed on 78. Possibilities for a more visible entrance are being considered--which could also be used as a farmers market.

The cattle barn is in disrepair and will have to be rebuilt and possibly relocated.

20 acres next to fair still being considered

The fair baord still has its eye on 20 acres located directly next to the fair, owned by Jeff Dewar. The board is asking the city to obtain a "first right of refusal" to buy the land. Another possibility is to lease the land from Dewar, as necessary, for extra parking.


Fair board, hockey group still considering arena

The Perham area hockey association and the East Otter Tail County fair board are still considering the prospect of building a new, multi-use arena on the grounds.

Hockey association members met with the fair board at a Oct. 20 meeting to discuss the concept.

The facility could serve as a covered ice facility for skating and hockey, as well as an arena for horse shows and other events. The facility could also be rented for events.

Construction and ongoing maintenance costs have hindered planning for the project, but the hockey association has agreed to further research the cost, as well as different options for such a facility.