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Fair officials asking for funding

County officials addressed concerns about the future of the fair at the county budget meeting Monday. Mike Burcham, fair grounds coordinator, requested an additional $20,000 be added to the Ag Society's 2007 operating budget of $15,250 to cover the cost of gradually restoring the fair buildings.

County commissioner Orv Meyer suggested volunteers restore the buildings.

Burcham responded by saying he hasn't seen anyone volunteering to help him maintain the grounds and that the only option is to contract the repairs to local businesses.

County commissioner Mary Harrison said a public meeting is necessary to discuss the future of the fair and assess how much public support there is for the annual celebration.

Commissioners asked Jim Carlson, extension services director, if 4-H kids need a county fair in order to compete at the Minnesota State Fair.

Carlson said it is not unheard of for 4-H to hold competitions outside of county fairs in order to advance to state competitions. He said some counties have events called achievement days that allow kids to compete when the county fair is held too early in the season to exhibit animals.

He said the subject of the fair was not discussed at the last extension services meeting, but he said he hopes to have some open meetings around the county after the 2006 fair.

Other budget requests from county departments include the following:

• Sheriff Mike Carr requested $60,000 to cover the cost of boarding prisoners out-of-county when the Wadena County Jail is full. County commissioners said they believed this estimate to be too modest and encouraged Carr to officially ask for more money for this program.

Commissioner Bill Stearns suggested a $100,000 request and Commissioner Mary Harrison said a $145,000 request would be more accurate.

Carr said the cost of boarding prisoners is approximately $20 per day at the Wadena County Jail but jumps to $50 a day for prisoners sent to the Morrison County Jail and $53 per day for prisoners sent to the Hubbard County Jail. He said Wadena County boards anywhere from five to 10 prisoners a day outside of the county.

Carr said the sheriff's department has taken a lot of criminals off the street over the past three years because of meth and he hopes they are catching up with the problem of too many prisoners.

"We try to be optimistic," Carr said about his modest budget request.

• County Attorney Kyra Ladd requested $25,000 for potential costs related to the 2007 trial for James Payne who, is accused of killing his brother, Wilbur Payne, in Verndale. She said the costs of obtaining witnesses may amount to more than what she is requesting for the estimated two-week trial.

Ladd also asked the board to consider in the future shifting the money it allocates for county legal work done by private law firms into a fund to create a new assistant county attorney position. She said the only problem this would cause would be a space issue that she would have to resolve.

• Char West, auditor/treasurer, recommended increasing the salaries for county commissioners by $2,360 per person. She said the budget will not need an increase because the commissioners wages only used $54,400 of the $66,200 set apart for annual salaries. She said the commissioners salaries will still remain the lowest in a 28-county study.