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County assumes control of fairgrounds

The Jeff Davis County Commission recently took over control of the Jeff Davis Fairgrounds from the Jeff Davis Fair Association.
In a letter dated Feb. 14 and signed by Commission Chairman Ricky Crosby, it was pointed out that the commissioners had once again been receiving numerous complaints by citizens and the Sheriff’s Department about parties that had been allowed to take place at the fairgrounds.
The letter said the Fair Association has continued to rent the building to “groups who use the facility as a nightclub serving alcohol and allowing the use of drugs.” Sheriff’s Deputies, answering noise complaints, have discovered drug paraphernalia on the premises, the letter said, and the building had fallen into disarray and was in desperate need of repairs.
Since the building is owned by the county, the commissioners were concerned about being held liable should something happen in connection with one of the parties in the facility, which the letter referred to as being used “as some juke joint.”
Later, the county had worked done at the fairgrounds to clear weeds, debris, trash and structures, cut grass, repair the driveway, etc. The estimated cost of that work was $6,188.40 and the commissioners sent a bill for that amount to Fair Association Secretary Lucy Sewell. Additionally, the county secured estimates to replace two air conditioning units, repair others and perform diagnostics that came to $20,923.
At a Fair Association meeting held last Thursday to determine if association members wanted to continue or disband, it was decided to remain functional for three months to give members an opportunity to find people who are willing to serve in the future. In a letter announcing the meeting, it was reported that all the current officers — Chairman B.H. Claxton, Vice-Chair Leonard Dykes, Treasurer Juanita Branch and Secretary Sewell — were not interested in continuing as officers.
The problems with the fairgrounds date back at least to 2012 when Claxton attended a commission meeting to discuss problems he was having with the conduct of groups renting the fairgrounds buildings.
In February, 2013, the then-commissioners met with fair association representatives to again address the problems. Then-County Administrator Carlos Tobar had met with Fair Association members and was assured there was a no-alcohol policy.
But the situation continued and in September, 2013, the commissioners first discussed taking over operation of the fairgrounds.
The next month, Commissioners Ray Wooten, Wayne Hall, Wanda Marchant and Steve Toler met with the four Fair Association officers, and the officers said they were not being told of the complaints and couldn’t solve them if they didn’t know about them.
Also at that meeting, Chairman Claxton said all the complaints mentioned at the meeting had been addressed and corrected.
At the end of the meeting, Chairman Ray Wooten said the county would have an agreement drawn up and completed within a week and the two groups would meet again to come to a decision.
It is unclear if that agreement was ever drawn up.
The matter came to a head earlier this year when JDHS Ag Department teachers and students went to the fairgrounds to prepare for an upcoming livestock show and found the building littered with hundreds of beer bottles and cans, and liquor bottles.
That led to the drafting of the letter sent by Crosby to the Fair Association.

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