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Show barn vs. FairPlex - Round 2

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Don't count Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Wilkerson out yet in his attempt to turn Mansfield Park into a paying proposition.
During a commissioners court meeting on Thursday, Dec. 11, most people - including Wilkerson's fellow elected officials - spoke against morphing the show barn into a convention-conference center. However, during a visit to the Courier office on Wednesday, Dec. 17, Wilkerson indicated the subject was not yet closed.
He said he would contact Judge Richard Evans and schedule a workshop, approved by the court unanimously on Dec. 11, as soon as possible. The workshop would include a review of the current lease - the end result being a possible "new and improved" lease agreement with the Bandera County and Bandera County Junior Livestock Show Association, Inc. (BCJLSA) or, according to Wilkerson, a continuation of a discussion of a possible county takeover of the facility.
"If the county doesn't want to take over management of the show barn, we could offer it to a nonprofit or even an individual, but it must be bid out," Wilkerson said, adding, "In that case, the county would not get revenue from scheduled events." The nonprofit being bandied about for possible management of the show barn is the Bandera Community Foundation, sponsor of Celebrate Bandera and now the Black & Red Ball.
Taking exception to the terms "convention center" or "conference center," Wilkerson said, "I never called it that. I prefer the name FairPlex," noting that one potential client might be the Texas Association of Counties. He also made short shrift of the idea there is not sufficient lodging throughout the county to support a "FairPlex," noting, "There are 650 rooms in this county."
Wilkerson also decried Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris statement about urine produced by livestock would preclude the facility from being used for meetings. "It's already being used for fundraisers, Ag Day and other meetings," he said. "No one's complained about the smell of urine."
According to Wilkerson, the only renovation necessary to ready the show barn for conventions, conferences or whatever would be to install air conditioning. "We could build a partition or something so the entire barn wouldn't have to be air conditioned. BEC (Bandera Electric Cooperative) spends $6,000 to air condition the building for one day during their general meeting," he said. "I'm sure they would help us out or the county could go out for grants." Wilkerson concluded, "I don't know how this got blown out of proportion."
Show barn history
Previous research by County Attorney Janna Lindig - and forwarded to Wilkerson on May 9 - revealed that on Sept. 1, 1991, county authorities leased the show barn to the Bandera County Junior Livestock Show, Inc. for 25 years. Moreover, the livestock association was to "quietly deliver up" the premises when the lease expired. According to Lindig, this document also contained information indicating that the BCJLSA paid for construction of the show barn and the lease agreement allows them to sublet the Show Barn until they recoup the cost of construction.
This agreement was made under the auspices of Judge Ray Mauer and commissioners Benny Barker, Dan Alanis, Roger Raser and Bud Thompson. HA "Speedy" Hutcheson, then BCJLSA president, signed the contract.
A contract dated Dec. 14, 1992 made reference that the show barn was actually the property of the BCJLS rather than the county. However, in Lindig's opinion, this contract refers only to the 30,000 square feet on which the show barn is located, not the show barn itself. She opined that the Sept. 1 contract referred to the show barn while the Dec. 14 contract "was necessary to lease the land under the show barn." Indeed, other than a single reference to the "lessee's show barn," there is no other indication extant that the BCJLSA was supposed to have the title to the show barn. As Lindig wrote, "It does not make sense that they should or would."
Additionally, a March 27 lease agreement enabled the county to lease a 1,500 square foot office space which was to be constructed within the existing show barn, and an April 8, 1996 amendment to the lease agreement allowed the BCJLSA to make a 30-foot by 60-foot addition to the show barn. These amendments were signed by County Judge Roger Raser and Dale Naumann of BCJLSA.
Lindig provided the timeline in an attempt to answer the question: Who owns the show barn? As she pointed out, "In my opinion, this is a way the BCJLSA has thrown confusion on the question of their entitlement to use the Show Barn free of charge."
New lease
Other considerations that need to be discussed with the BCJLSA prior to any lease renewal would be water provision, septic system, insurance provisions and use by youth groups.
In a letter to Lindig dated April 2, Russell Hevenor, a member of the BCJLS Board of Directors, indicated that the group wanted to secure a new lease as soon as possible rather than wait until the current agreement expires on August 30, 2017.
Stipulations requested by the BCJLSA included:
• A 25-year lease to expire in 2039
• An expanded physical description of the area included in the lease to include the area from the fence behind the barn to the green fence along the creek to the front edge of the road in front of the barn to the middle of the road between the show barn and rec center. This expanded area would be used for tying animals and for loading and unloading livestock.
• Waive parking fee during stock show, bake show and BCJLSA fundraisers. Currently, BCJLSA must pay parking fees during these events.
• The county furnishing water at no charge as long as the county owns the public water supply. BCJLSA owns the septic system, which is outside the boundaries of the current lease, but which is included within the proposed expanded area.
• BCJLSA giving county reasonable notice of other functions.
• Extension Service to have use of restrooms.
In addition, Hevenor noted that all other operating expenses associated with the show barn, including electricity, insurance and maintenance are paid by the BCJLSA. He concluded: "The association provides a facility for the extension service rent free and a facility to educate and develop county youth and make them better citizens. All this is done at little to no cost to Bandera County." In an April 30 email to Lindig, Hevenor also stated candidly that the stock show board was interested in finalizing a new lease "while the current court is supportive of the stock show."
Emails fly
An email from current BCJLSA President Kevin Meier to Lindig dated June 3 recognized that the current lease had "major flaws." He indicated that four years ago he had met with Evans and then Precinct 3 Commissioner Richard Keese and "hammered out the agreed terms of a mutually beneficial lease." He requested that Lindig "draft a lease based on the agreed upon terms" rather than "investigate or dictate terms" - a request that didn't sit well with the county attorney.
In short order, Lindig's reply informed Meier that she was the county attorney and he did not get to "dictate my 'role' nor make any demands of me. BCJLSA has gone passed [sic] a revision (of the existing lease), but instead wants a new - different lease for twenty-five years." At this point, Lindig informed Meier any further involvement by her would be contingent upon requests from Evans and the commissioners.
Lindig became involved again on Dec. 11, when Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug King put the matter of the lease on the court's agenda.