Local residents have taken Area E Director Bill Baird to task for a $15,000 grant-in-aid provided in March of last year to buy arena panels.
Baird says that the money for the panels was given to the Buckin’ Hens Rodeo Association. He says that at the time the grant was made, it was everybody’s belief that the rodeo would continue using the fairgrounds.
Buckin’ Hens and the fair went their separate ways after a new fall fair board was elected in January. The Buckin’ Hens website says that because they faced a 240-percent increase in rental costs for the arena and grounds, they chose to move their rodeo chutes and the panels from the grounds and cancelled the 2013 rodeo.
Another version of the 2013 contract negotiation between the fair and the rodeo is presented in the minutes of Feb. 20, 2013 fall fair meeting when Director Ron Palmer reported on contracts. He asserted that Buckin’ Hens offered a reduction from $1,700 to $1,000, but the board countered with a price of $1,725.
That left the community without a rodeo and, eventually – with the fair date getting closer – it also left some members in the community grumbling that the grant should have stipulated the panels were to be available for the fair association (see letter, page 9). One of the group’s main organizers is Mary Lautard, who says that the push to get the grant reviewed is not coming from the fall fair board. “The board wanted to step aside from this because all of the people who were prepared to address it were not on the board,” she explained.
The group met with Baird in May and came away hopeful that something would be done to resolve the issue. Lautard said that some people have told her the letter isn’t necessary, that Baird should be given the chance to resolve the issue. “But it’s been three months,” she says, adding because the fair is still short 15 panels from what is needed for fair weekend, the group decided to make their concern public with an open letter to Baird.
When contacted for comment Baird said that he’d not been able as yet to get together with Scott Thordarson of Buckin’ Hens Entertainment Association. “I am still trying to get them back,” said Baird. “I am trying to get a date that we could meet together. They both have their backs up against the wall – both sides – but I am thinking that now that things have calmed down a bit that maybe cooler heads will prevail and you know, get the right thing done here.”
When pressed Baird said the right thing would be for the panels to be back in the hands of the Rock Creek fair association.
But he says he had no idea in March of 2012 that the rodeo would not continue holding the event at the fairgrounds and that legally the rodeo group is within its rights to not give them back.
Baird insists this is the first time a complaint like this has happened in the 21 years that he’s been a rural director.
A grant-in-aid application form can be downloaded from the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB) website and faxed to the Trail office. From there it is routed to the rural directors caucus meeting and then to the regular monthly board meeting (though only rural directors get a vote, because grant-in-aid funds are collected from the rural residents only).
Buckin’ Hens was registered as a society in March 2012 though Lautard and the others are pushing Baird, saying they question the fact that the board of directors of that society come from only two families in which both man and wife in each household were principals of Buckin’ Hens when it was a private business.
RDKB Chief Administrative Officer John MacLean said that the grant was given in accordance with Section 181 of the Local Government Act. “They (Buckin’ Hens Entertainment) are not a business and there is not a whole lot of other rules in legislation that cover GIA,” he told the Times. “Legally there is no issue.”