Fair board chided over purchasing

By Jack King

The Curry County commission and County Manager Geneva Cooper said Wednesday the county fair board spent more than $18,373 this year without following proper county procurement procedures.
Commissioners took fair board President Buddy Vaughn and treasurer Peggy Burns to task at the commission’s board meeting for making 16 purchases alleged to have violated the county’s procurement code.
County Attorney Steven Doerr said one expenditure, $5,000 to the Clovis Lions Club for gate personnel and ticket takers for the fair, was on the edge of being illegal. Under the county procurement code, all purchases more than $5,000 require going out for bids, he said.
Under the code, purchases up to $1,500 require an attempt to get the best price and those over $1,500 require three quotes, Cooper said.
Cooper said the fair board has been maintaining two checking accounts, one of which — a fund for prizes — it should not have. Under state and county law, the county commission is responsible for every expenditure the fair board makes, she said.
“All I know is Peggy said the auditor said everything was fine,” Vaughn told the commissioners. He said now that the commission has pointed out the problem, it won’t happen again.
But Commissioners Pete Hulder and Ed Perales said auditors of the county have cited the fair board’s purchasing practices as “exceptions” — matters of concern — for the last two to four years.
Burns said all of the questioned expenditures occurred during the busy week of the fair.
“People have to realize I worked 240 hours in August. I have two jobs. I understand procurement. I understand what has to be done, but I don’t understand why a little leeway can’t be given during the week of the fair,” she said.
“I apologize. It was an oversight,” she added.
In other business, Susan Carter, owner of Aire Alto horse farm charged the commission’s roads subcommittee was ignoring a danger of West Nile virus when it decided not to recommend building a dip in County Road G adjoining her property. A depression on her land has allowed water to build up there and the road blocks drainage from the land to a nearby drainage ditch, she said.
“Four horses have died with West Nile and our horse shoer has contracted it, although I’m not sure it he contracted it on our premises. I could lose business for this, lots of business. If I’m sued, not only will I be sued, I’m going to pass on the joys of being sued,” Carter said.
Commissioner Albin Smith said one concern of the road committee was the county’s liability if horse manure and other contaminants from Carter’s land drain into ditches with the water from her land.
Doerr suggested asking the state Environment Department to look into the issue and Carter said she is willing for the state department to become involved.
“I’ll take my chances with the environmental agency, because this is an on-going issue with dairies and cattle. My pond will be treated, but the water’s going to be moved,” she said.
The commission voted to table action on the road committee’s decision pending further research.
Among other actions, the commission:
• approved issuing a request for proposals for a management consultant to oversee design and building, and possibly to manage, the county special events center.
• approved a request by Clovis High School to build a bonfire at the fair grounds for the school’s homecoming celebration on Sept. 11.
• turned down a request by Plains Regional Medical Center that the county provide $35,581.23 from its indigent care funds to help the hospital obtain $139,863.31 in sole community hospital supplemental funds.