The curious timing of a Request For Proposals (RFP) by Butte County for the fairgrounds property has not gone unnoticed by this newspaper. Though dated August 9, 2017 the RFP did not see light until August 24, 2017, the opening day of The Butte County Fair, a time when those who would be worried or even incensed are way too busy to immediately address and question the future of the fair.
While members of service organizations set up for the fair, parents unloaded their children's 4-H and FFA animals and the busy fair staff ran in every direction, Butte County knew what they were doing putting this RFP out and holding viewings on Thursday the opening day of the fair.
Fair Board President Ralph Wilkerson had received no notice that the County was holding viewings before Thursday morning and had to leave the livestock events in the barns to meet up with County officials for the viewing while his boys were showing sheep.
The deadline for proposals is September 11, 2017 which doesn't give much time for rebuttals.
The request for Property Redevelopment proposals states, "The County of Butte is seeking a firm to redevelop the County's Fairgrounds property. The land where the Fairgrounds is located has been owned by the County since 1947 and has been used over the years for the annual County Fair, community events, festivals, trade shows, music concerts, RV camping and other public uses.
"The Fairgrounds currently has 15+ buildings, mostly in fair to poor condition. The Fairgrounds property also houses a community pool that is funded through a Community Service Area (CSA). The fairgrounds lost State funding in 2012 and it is no longer financially feasible to maintain the Fairgrounds and its current uses as is."
In actuality, The Butte County Fair has been in the black since 2015.
Butte County General Services has done improvements such as repairs to weather damaged roofs and removed dying trees along with pool repairs according to Fair CEO Steve Kenny.
The RFP continues, "The County desires to redevelop the Fairgrounds to its best use, which may or may not include commercial, residential, agricultural, or industrial development. The County prefers to maintain the continued public use for community events and the Butte County Fair, however, this is not a requirement. The goal of the solicitation process will be to identify a qualified firm which can present and implement a viable redevelopment scenario for the Fairgrounds.
Under Desired Outcomes, the RFP stated, "Maximize Job production - The County would like to see the redevelopment create maximum job production. Maximize benefit to the residents of the City of Gridley and surrounding unincorporated communities. Gridley residents should be considered throughout the project. In addition to the job creation requirement, the redevelopment should provide assets to the Gridley community and surrounding areas.
Preference will be given to projects that accommodate the Butte County Fair for two weeks annually. (Note - The Butte County Fair starts with set up in May of each year with shade structures, painting, etc. Actual displays start on August 1 and they need until September 15 to clear the fair out of the buildings band grounds. Historically the Butte County Fair has taken place on the fairgrounds property the last weekend in August. It is preferred to continue to hold the Fair on the property, however this is not a requirement."
This community loves their pool, their fair and many are already offering any help that is needed. It doesn't take long for the word to get out when one of our assets are threatened. This is the fairgrounds that has on average 200 people show up for Community Work Day to beautify the grounds each April.
This is the town that not only saved their pool, they saved their hospital so to think that we will sit back and let our fairgrounds possibly be taken from us would be a mistake.
Ask any member of the Knights of Columbus, Gridley Lions, Quota or Rotary Clubs who hold their largest fund raisers at the fairgrounds whether it be parking cars, serving beer or hosting a silent auction and tasting event each and every year.
Ask any wrestler where they learned to wrestle, ask any Rugby player how appreciative they are of the fairgrounds for the opportunity to use the grounds for practice and games.
Though the request does state the fair could possibly stay, it is the threat of it not staying that has residents up in arms.
Why on Wednesday morning during livestock events when Fair President Ralph Wilkerson had to leave when his sons were showing because a viewing was being held at 10:30 a.m. for the RFP to his amazement with no advance warning.
Fair Manager Steve Kenny is very appreciative of Butte County's General Services. "General Services under Grant Hunziker has been a tremendous support to the fair and helping us move forward and integral in upgrading the facility for community use."
We have grown up attending this fair, many have been married there, veterans honored, graduations held, prepared homecoming floats, shotput practice held along with numerous high school events held and of course the strong FFA ties. In three weeks the Northern Recon Group will take over the fairgrounds for a four day camp which will include honoring a 95 year-old Merchant Marine. The public is invited to come join the ceremony at the Pearl Harbor Monument near Courtyard Stage at 1 p.m., Saturday, September 16.
Farmers Hall has been Gridley High School's gymnasium since 1952. The Gridley Invitational Basketball Tournament is held in Farmers Hall each and every year holding many, many great memories for so many over the years not to mention some fantastic basketball witnessed with many of these outstanding athletes going on to bigger and better futures.
The memories and events could go on forever and ever but suffice it to say, we aren't going away without a fight.
Butte County District 4 Supervisor Steve Lambert see's the RFP as a fishing expedition and doesn't think anything will come of it.
"I would hope something positive would come out of it. We do need to utilize the property more and possibly generate monthly income maybe with more weddings, maybe have a commercial kitchen to get more events. I don't see the urgency of this. I think it's just the County being prudent trying to be proactive," he stated.