LIMA — Representatives of the Allen County Fairgrounds and Allen County Relay for Life characterized a Friday meeting as positive and productive, but the meeting did not result in a signed contract for the event this year.
Both sides are taking a proposed contract back to their respective boards and said they expect a decision in the next two weeks.
The issue of new fairgrounds General Manager David Grimm asking for a decreased rent this year, but an increase in rent for years two and three of a proposed contract from the Relay group was raised a week ago in a letter to the editor in The Lima News. In the wake of that letter, representatives of a second nonprofit approached the paper to say Grimm wants rent for its event, attempting to negotiate on a percentage of the group’s expenses or fundraising goals.
Grimm replaced former General Manager Jay Begg, who became an Allen County commissioner earlier this month. Grimm said little Friday, other than to confirm the meeting with the Relay group.
“Representatives of the Allen County Fair and Relay for Life Committee met earlier this afternoon, and we exchanged ideas regarding fees for the fairgrounds for use by the Relay for Life fundraiser,” Grimm said. “The fairgrounds presented a counter offer to the Relay’s proposal and the Relay committee indicated they would discuss it next week.”
Relay spokeswoman Cheryl Nagy confirmed the nature of the conversation.
“The meeting went very well. We had a good discussion and everyone had a positive attitude when we left,” Nagy said. “We looked at the contract, talked to them about their offer. Both parties have to take the offer back to their boards. We have no animosity with the fairgrounds. We’ve had very many happy years there and understand that everyone is just trying to be good stewards with their funds.”
Another nonprofit, Ohio Hands and Voices, could be moving its event from the fairgrounds after discussion with Grimm. Three years ago the group started a fundraising walk at the fairgrounds in conjunction with national nonprofit Hearing Loss Association of America.
Ohio Hands approached the fairgrounds in 2010 about the event, Vice President Virginia Calvelage, of Fort Jennings, said. The group was prepared to pay rent, but was told the space was free. This year when Calvelage went to sign the 2013 contract, she learned the fairgrounds now wanted rent.
Instead of providing a standard rate, Grimm asked Calvelage about the group’s expenses and amount of money the event raised, saying the group should pay a percentage of that. Grimm also asked Calvelage to propose a rental amount she thought the fairgrounds were worth, she said.
“He kept reiterating to me, didn’t I think the fairgrounds were worth paying for. I agree with him. But to ask for a percentage of what a nonprofit is raising, that’s a lot of money. That just doesn’t seem right. Quote me a price,” Calvelage said. “A friend said to me, ‘You had every right to say your expenses are none of your business. I’m here to rent your facility. I thought I was there to sign a contract. But he was intent on giving me an economics lesson. Walking out of there my heart sank. It just seemed like a lot.”
Calvelage said after an hour of conversation, she and Grimm settled on a possible rent, but the group hasn’t signed the contract because it’s investigating other venues.
Grimm declined to comment, saying he didn’t have the board’s permission to discuss the situation with Ohio Hands, but he did say the board will be reviewing the process and fee structure for nonprofit business in the future.