Farm Bureau President Ron Bjork invited Koellermeier to give members an update on the state of affairs at the Expo. There has been plenty of negative publicity concerning finance of the venue and a great deal of concern for the future of the fair.
“Jackson County Fair is as close to solvency as any fair in Oregon,” Koellermeier told Farm Bureau members. And added that Jackson County has the most modern facility and a one-mile stretch of I-5, giving Jackson County Fair a leg-up on any in the state.
Koellermeier said there has been plenty of talk of regional fairs, most of it coming from areas like Josephine County, which has a really old facility and virtually no money to repair aging buildings. He also said that most of the fairs around the state depend on the pittance they receive from the State of Oregon to finance operations. California, before the recession, used to pour some $33 million into county fairs, and that figure has now dropped to nothing. Support from the state of Oregon amounts to just 5 percent of the Jackson County Expo budget.
Jackson County residents have been more than generous in support of the facilities, donating some $8 million for buildings at the Expo. However, that money does not support operations. Koellermeier also added that some of the physical plant could have been thought through more thoroughly before installation, such as the amphitheater. “It is a beautiful facility, but sees very little use. One of the reasons is that it is so close to the city of Central Point, which nearly surrounds us.” That proximity makes for a good deal of noise in the city during concerts, and concerts are not held until later in the evening when folks like quiet time.
There are some things you can’t do anything about, and the recession is one of those. Though there are fewer dollars to go around, Koellermeier said that Jackson County has done well. A problem experienced last year was that the carnival contractor booked two more events at the same time, leaving us with the bottom of the barrel for carnival features. That contractor will not be invited back to Central Point.
The Jackson County Fair board is examining all alternatives to bringing in a more sustained income from the properties, including commercial ventures such as a destination resort. Koellermeier said that would work, but not until support and related services are built in the near vicinity. Another avenue being explored is to use the 4-5 acres of water in the park for some type of water attractions. The Expo owns several acres east of Bear Creek, but access could be a problem due to its location.
President Bjork reported that the Jackson County Farm Bureau is now at just over 49 percent on their annual membership drive, with just over 1330 members now on the roles.
Bjork also noted that there is great controversy due to the federal government wanting to limit children working on farms. He said that implementation of such a rule would cause a lot of farms to cease to exist and would destroy those family relationships where as many as three generations of a family work side-by-side on the same property. Those who wish to express dissatisfaction with that possibility need to contact www.keepfamilyfarming.com to post comments.
DEQ is seeking ways to quantify data on SB 1010. According to Bjork, the original bill was written to check for instream temperatures–which he says have been met–but not particulates in the stream.
The Oregon Farm Bureau is seeking to phase out the death tax penalty. Their plan would reduce the burden by 25 percent per year over the next four years, until the tax no longer exists by the year 2016. The measure would stop state and local taxes from being imposed on the transfer of large properties to allow family farms to continue.
Also at issue is the support of political candidates, specifically in Klamath County where Farm Bureau Vice President Tracy Liskey is running against Gail Whitsett, wife of incumbent State Senator Doug Whitsett. Both are republicans.
Also speaking to the Farm Bureau was Judge Ben Bloom, former Philadelphia attorney, now on the bench as one of nine Jackson County judges. Bloom was imperative that most questions were out of bounds about his professional life. He did, however reveal that he loves dogs, perhaps a more revealing answer than any he could not properly answer. His purpose in attending was to get to know members.
The Jackson County Farm Bureau meets regularly on the third Tuesday of each month, beginning at 6 p. m. for dinner and 7 p. m. for business. They are currently meeting at the Black Bear Restaurant in Medford.
By Ralph McKechnie
for the Independent