FARMER CITY – Organizers of the Farmer City Fair say that this year's event, set for July 17-21, will be the last held at its current fairgrounds.
In addition, auto races at the Farmer City Raceway will no longer be held at the fairgrounds after 2008.
Meanwhile, the fair board has sent the Farmer City Council notice that it must abandon South Park within 60 days and restore the property to bare farm ground within 90 days.
Rick Corneglio, executive director of the Farmer City Fair Association, said the fair board voted last week to give up trying to swap the 45-acre South Park and 20 to 25 acres of land next to Interstate 74 in exchange for the fairgrounds, which are owned by the city.
Two days earlier, the Farmer City Council voted 3-2 against holding a public hearing on the land swap.
Mayor Buster Kirby and Alderman Ted Reynolds voted in favor of the hearing.
Kirby said he thought the land swap would be worthwhile because it would give the city land by the interstate for economic development.
Aldermen Randy Matthews, Joe Newberry and Carl Parr voted against holding the hearing.
Matthews said the city needed to have the fairgrounds property available for possible economic development.
According to City Attorney Bill Tracy, the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/Art. 11 Div. 76.2) requires that a public hearing be held before city-owned land is exchanged.
Tracy said that the code also required a three-quarters supermajority (four votes) of the board to hold the public hearing.
Corneglio said he was surprised the council voted against holding the hearing.
"They could have held the public hearing and still vote it down, but they apparently did not care to hear what the people of Farmer City had to say about it. They didn't want to get the public's input. It's odd to me."
Corneglio said the fair board sent the city a notice on the day after the city council meeting that it was terminating the city's lease for South Park. The park includes some soccer fields, two baseball/softball diamonds and a BMX bicycle track.
"Even if a sympathetic person were elected to the city council on April 17, it wouldn't give us a three-fourths majority. It doesn't change anything. We're done with the city."
In an effort to save South Park, the city council voted on April 2 to authorize City Manager David Joswiak to negotiate with the fair board on the possible purchase of South Park.
"The council has given me some direction, and I need to fine-tune it," Joswiak said. "I've had a couple of phone conversations to set up meetings between myself and members of the fair association. We expect to meet within the next week."
Joswiak said that his staff has completed an inventory of all the equipment and facilities at South Park in the event that the city has to remove everything within the next 90 days.
"We're hoping we don't have to do that," Joswiak said.
Corneglio said his group wouldn't be opposed to selling South Park.
"We're going to need some money to pay to move the fairgrounds elsewhere," Corneglio said.