Efforts to obtain land for Canadian County fairgrounds continues

Officials with the Canadian County Public Facilities Authority have authorized their attorney to continue negotiating for the purchase of property to be the new home of the county fairgrounds.

The move came Monday following a 1½ hour executive session.

The panel voted unanimously to move forward with the negotiations to purchase about 140 acres of land.

However, details of which property the county is considering purchasing was not disclosed.

The commissioners have narrowed their search to two pieces of land.

One area is located to the southeast of El Reno near the intersections of Interstate 40 and U.S. 81.

That property is owned by the Jensen Family. A portion of the property is inside the El Reno city limits, but a portion is not.

County officials, earlier this year, authorized an architectural firm to create several architectural renderings showing how the fairgrounds could fit into the property along with a commercial development.

Those renderings were presented to the family for consideration about a month ago.

Officials have been hoping the Jensens would donate the property, which would save the county up to $2.5 million that could be put toward the construction of the fairgrounds.

A second option for the fairgrounds is property already owned by the county east of the Canadian County Children’s Justice Center.

It also would provide easy access to Interstate 40 from Banner or Radio Road.

Officials have said the county would still have to purchase the property at fair market value because it was purchased by the county using sales tax money that is dedicated to the operations of the children’s center.

No decision on the properties was made during the executive session, said Commission Chairman Jack Stewart.

Before the board went into executive session, Daniel Pugh, who is running against Stewart for the District 3 commissioner’s seat, asked the officials to table any action on the fairgrounds until after the Nov. 6 election.

Two of the three commissioners are facing challengers — Stewart and District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader.

Pugh said any decision on the fairgrounds should wait until the public has a chance to vote.

“I’ve been to over 3,000 doorsteps over the last five months and there is absolutely no appetite for this fairgrounds relocation. … This $47 million field of dreams, built it and they will come fantasy fairgrounds will not have a nifty Hollywood ending. It’s 180 degrees out of phase with the sentiment of the people and I ask that you table this until after the election,” Pugh said.

Former OSU extension agent Brad Tipton said there is a need for an expansion of the fairgrounds complex. However, it won’t be $47 million as has been suggested, at least not initially.

“They are not spending $47 million. That is not correct. There is not funding for $47 million. You have to wait until the commissioners say ‘Here is what we’re doing,’” Tipton said.

When the feasibility study was released, the architects did say that under their plan, it could cost up to $47 million for the project, which is expected to include an expo center.

“That s not a reality in current county revenue and resources,” he said.

Funding for the expansion project is being paid for through the use of a portion of the county’s use tax. Officials have said they can borrow up to about $10 million and pay for it from the tax that is generated through online and out-of-county sales.

The use tax generates about $150,000 per month.

Stewart said Monday that residents will not see any increase in property taxes or sales taxes to fund the expansion.

“Whatever happens will be what we think is in the best interest of the county. There will be no new taxes. No one’s taxes will be raised a penny for this,” Stewart said.

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