Deal allows fair to stay put through 2013

The Benton-Franklin Fair Association has reached a new deal with Benton County to remain on the fairgrounds through 2013.

County commissioners Monday approved a three-year extension of the lease, which will cost $158,578 for 2011. The cost will go up as much as 3 percent annually over the next two years.

Commissioners had been trying to resolve the lease for several months, knowing that a five-year lease signed in 2006 was about to expire.

The Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo Association, which runs the fair, had said it was interested in taking over the 126-acre fairgrounds last year. But commissioners made it clear they weren't interested.

Commissioner Jim Beaver said at a November meeting that it would be improper to turn the fairgrounds over to the private group because it would constitute an illegal gift of public money.

And Commissioner Max Benitz Jr. said the county shouldn't surrender county property that had seen $2 million in improvements at county expense over the past decade.

Doug Elliott, Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo president, could not be reached Monday for a comment. But he previously has said that as a private entity the association could manage the property more efficiently than the county.

-- Also Monday, commissioners declared $13,686 as bad debt.

That includes businesses that closed without paying taxes, mobile homes that were destroyed or moved with unpaid taxes and corporations that dissolved with unpaid taxes.

Commissioners also voted to rescind a previous action related to West Richland's urban growth area because it violated the state's Growth Management Act. The action removed 545 acres from West Richland's urban growth area.