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Open letter to Kootenai County commissioners

by Sue Nussear Guest OpinionDave
| November 22, 2019 12:00 AM

Good Day:

I am letting you know, that we are strongly opposed to the present effort to take more land from the Kootenai County Fairgrounds for a judicial complex.

Throughout the years, law enforcement, work release center and RV dump station have taken a lot of acreage on the northwest corner of the fairgrounds.

Seemingly, a reoccurring theme every few years is to consider moving the judicial branch to the fairgrounds. Several years ago, this theme was rejected by the commissioners, as the attorneys and judicial branch were not in favor of being away from the central county facilities downtown.

Years ago, the Fair Board conducted a study related to moving the fairgrounds out to the prairie. At that time, the cost to create a new facility would be about $35-40 million. Additionally, the surrounding infrastructure — roads, utilities and access — would incur more costs.

Our fairgrounds is very special, a central community gathering place in our county that has enriched the lives of many, young and old. This is community at its best. Our fair is almost self supporting, with a hefty budget in excess of $1 million that is 90% or more earned by the fair and functions using the facility. Idaho statutes provide for minimal support to the fair.

Approximately 40 nonprofit organizations from the local area earn their annual budget at the facility. Past years have seen the veterans stand down, St. Vincent’s barbecue and soup fundraising efforts as well.

The Farm to Table program held on the fairgrounds, benefiting 4-5 graders from the surrounding community school districts, occurs every spring for three days, teaching the students where their food comes from. In past years, over 1,100 students daily have enjoyed this and more schools want to sign on.

Our youth learn about hard work and becoming community members, giving back to the next generation. The 4H program is huge and culminates with the Livestock Auction and all projects created on display. An important learning experience for the young coming after us.

The 2019 fair experienced a major increase in attendance, more than 97,000 folks. Parking was exceeded on the grounds and extra parking at the high school requiring busing from there to the entrance.

The North Idaho Fair and Rodeo Foundation (501c3) has supported the fairgrounds throughout the years with funds for capital improvements — complete building painting — new lights and electrical in the main arena, support for the RV facility as well as a scholarship program for students of the region. Chicks & Chaps fundraising has benefited the breast cancer program at the hospital for many years. Additionally, the foundation has an endowment investment fund to support capital improvement and scholarships in the future.

We do care about this “GEM” in our county, as both of us have spent many years as volunteers — my wife in the Flower Barn and “stuffing” mailers, working with young people; myself as a former fair board member for just under 26 years and numerous hours all over the grounds. We loved what we did then and still treasure the fair “family.” Our volunteer efforts and support will continue.

I urge you: Please protect our fairgrounds!

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Dave and Sue Nussear are Dalton Gardens residents.