By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The Great Northern Fair Board hasn't decided exactly what will be done to replace the grandstands at the Hill County Fairgrounds, but whatever is done will happen under a new fairgrounds manager.
Mike Spencer submitted his resignation to the board at its meeting Tuesday, effective April 30.
"It was just time for a change for me. I've done it for nine years and it was time for something different," Spencer said.
Pat Conway, chair of the Hill County Commission, said the job opening will be listed by the Havre Job Service, and he hopes to complete initial interviews for the position by April 15.
The grandstands at the fairground arena were torn down earlier this year because of safety reasons, Conway said. The timbers holding up the structure were very unsafe, he said.
A structural engineer studied the grandstands and determined that repairing them would be "ultra-expensive," he said.
Conway said the two main options for rebuilding the seats are asking the voters to approve a mill levy or to issue bonds.
The county government is applying for a grant to help fund the new seating, which will be bleachers rather than a grandstand, he said. The maximum grant would be $50,000, and would require a $50,000 match by the county.
Grandstands would require much more money to build than bleachers, Conway said.
Fair Board member Alma Seidel said the board has asked the county commissioners to raise the money with a mill levy on the 2004 primary election ballot. Mailing out ballots for a special election would have been too expensive, she said.
Spreading $50,000 throughout the county over several years probably wouldn't be a very large tax increase, she said.
Conway said a levy could allow the county to leverage taking out a loan to replace the grandstands. That would save a lot of expense required to issue bonds, he added.
The replacement of Spencer has been simplified because much of the work preparing for the 2003 Great Northern Fair has already been done, Conway said.
Spencer has done an excellent job as fairgrounds manager, Conway added. He has instituted a lot of innovative ways to raise money at the fair, and has served as a watchdog to make sure the event runs well, Conway said.
"He took it on as actually his own personal little project. It wasn't just a job for Mike," he said.
"I think we're losing a very excellent fair manager, but I understand that he needs to move on," she said.
Spencer said the fair board has known he planned to resign for quite awhile. He said he especially wants to spend more time with his son, Ian, who will graduate from Havre High School this year.
"That had a lot to do with it. It could be his last year of baseball," Spencer said.
He said he would help the new manager with this year's fair if necessary.
Spencer said he has appreciated working with the commissioners and the fair board over the years, and has learned a lot about managing, about business and about the community.
"All the people I have worked with at Hill County have been fun. I've had a great time," he said.