State kicks in $75,000 grant
Legislators secure fairground funds
In response to a plea from two state representatives, the State Finance Council voted Monday to help clean up after the Tonganoxie tornado.
State Reps. Ken Wilk and Candace Ruff met with the council Monday morning to ask for assistance.
In turn, the state committee ap-proved a $75,000 grant to be used to rebuild or repair the administration building at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds.
David Todd, president of the fair board, described the news in one word: "Fantastic. Kenny Wilk has really worked hard on this deal, and Candy Ruff had input on it as well. They knew how important it was to get this thing back."
Wilk said finding the money had not been an easy task.
"I'm not going to kid you," Wilk
said. "It was hard work to get it done. For two months we'd been trying to find assistance for the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds. We went to the federal government and different state agencies and we just hit a dead end everywhere."
Wilk said this left one alternative the state finance council.
"The state used to have an emergency relief contingency fund," Wilk said. "We eliminated that fund about two years ago and left about $2 million in it. A statute was put in place that allows the state finance council to release these funds."
A release of funding requires a unanimous vote of the nine-member council. Wilk said the council members include Gov. Bill Graves, legislative leaders and the chairmen of two legislative spending committees.
To present their case, Wilk showed pictures of the tornado damage and of progress made at the fairgrounds.
Ruff, who participates in the judging of 4-H projects, talked about the human angle, particularly the impact on 4-H'ers.
"I wanted to tell them that the impact of the tornado was not only on the bricks and mortar, wiring and foundation it's a human story," Ruff said. "And I wanted to tell them so that they could see what it means in the eyes of a child."
Besides, Ruff said, fairgrounds are used by people from across the county during the fair.
"What other event gets 10,000 people out on a Wednesday night?" she asked.
Wilk said he was pleased with the committee's vote for the grant. The funds will be sent to the county commission and earmarked for the administration building.
"Given the significance of the Leavenworth County Fair and of Tonganoxie, and to the county as a whole and with all the volunteer work that has been done and that will continue to be done, I think it's only fair that the state steps in and helps a little bit," Wilk said.
Todd said he hopes the grant will encourage more donations.
Some of the preliminary estimates on the administration building ranged from $150,000 to $240,000, Todd said.
"It just depends how extensive a facility we want to put back in its place," Todd said. "We'll probably start looking into this in September, as soon as we get the fair finished and can sit down and catch our breath."