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Proposed annexation of fairgrounds discussed

The multitude of concerns surrounding the idea of bringing the fairgrounds into the city limits run the gamut of issues, from security, noise, to who would get any revenues from the RV park
It is quite possible the city will find itself acquiring another business to go along with its restaurant and golf course. If the proposed annexation of the county fairgrounds is approved, the city would take over the county's RV park also.
   The income from the RV park is only one of many issues that was discussed by a group of involved city and county officials this week. Other concerns involved law enforcement, maintenance of the roads within the fairgrounds, noise and liquor licenses.
   The fairgrounds was only one of a number of properties that were earmarked for annexation into the city recently. The city's policy stating that no new sewer service would be provided to property outside the city limits was behind it all.
   Right now, City Planning Director Dick Brown explained, the city's sewer facility can handle less than 300 new dwelling units. The facility was expected to be able to handle Prineville's needs until 2005, but nobody counted on the recent growth spurt.
   "We process about 150 building permits a year," Brown said. "If we have to stop growth, it'll be very hard to get it back."
   Brown said he has already denied one request for service to a property out the Madras Highway that the owner wanted to develop. That denial cost the owner about $200,000. The real fear the city has is that someone will come to town and have a business that hires a couple hundred people and they'll have to be turned down because there is not enough capacity at the sewer facility.
   County Commissioner Mike McCabe asked about the two buildings, a new Carey Foster Hall and a 4-H building. "You can either wait two years or so until the new facility is built," Brown answered, "or be annexed in and pay the systems development charge fee for the buildings."
   "We have a moral obligation," Brown told the group, "to serve property owners within the city before anyone outside." That includes two proposed buildings at the fairgrounds.
   As a part of the move to annex into the city properties that are already on the city sewer and water lines, the Les Schwab office complex on Madras Hwy has been annexed and is now within the city limits.
   When asked about the impact that bringing the fairgrounds into the city would have on providing security, Police Chief Jim Soules said it could have a big consequence. "Obviously it's going to cost the city money to provide security. The sheriff's office is now the lead agency and we are secondary. It would have a fairly big impact on our budget."
   Soules said he couldn't offer any idea what that impact would be. He would have to talk with Sheriff Rodd Clark to find out what the costs were.
   Clark explained that his expenses at the fairgrounds are not high. "I just adjust our schedule. Usually our deputies are down there anyway. The only event that pays extra is the Crooked River Roundup. They contract with us and pay $1,500 for the two events. We just adjust the schedules and show up."
   Soules and Clark agreed that if necessary they could work out the security issues between them.
   County Roadmaster Norm Thompson said he wouldn't have a problem giving up the job of maintaining the roads within the fairgrounds. About 15 years ago, all the roads became county roads and Thompson said he spends about $50,000 a year on upkeep. Brown explained that whenever a subdivision is annexed, once the streets and roads are brought up to city standards they become city streets and roads. More than likely, it was suggested, fairgrounds roads would remain the county's responsibility.
   Often when there is an event at the fairgrounds, residents on the other side of Lynn Blvd. call with complaints about the noise.
   The county doesn't have a noise ordinance, although there is an omnibus nuisance ordinance. "If the city annexes the fairgrounds, would residents across the county line," fairgrounds manager Gary Timmerman asked, "across Lynn Blvd., then come under the city's ordinance?"
   Chief Soules said his officers would continue to handle those complaints just as they do now.
   What would happen to the RV park operation? Presently the hotel/motel tax is paid to the Parks and Recreation District and shared with the Chamber of Commerce. Brown, pulling out his calculator, quickly computed that the $1.40 on top of the usual rate would generate about $4,500 or so per year. It could be argued, he added, that those revenues continued to go as before. "We are all one community and the park benefits us all," he said.
   County legal counselor Pete Schannauer disagreed on that point. That would have to be negotiated out between the county and the city, he said. "What happens to the hotel/motel tax - I guarantee the city would take it."
   County Judge Scott Cooper was not at the meeting, but in a letter said that there is a need for the county to understand the impacts of such an annexation. "No one has made a clear case of why we shouldn't do this. Much of what the city hopes to accomplish through annexation makes sense. The possibility of increased room tax revenues for the city, the potential for sewer and water extensions to the fairgrounds and the potential for greater law enforcement cooperation are all potentially positive outcomes of
   an annexation."
   Cooper has asked that the city hold off making any decision on the annexation to give the county time to study the various issues.