Last November, Lake County Farm Bureau Director Greg Koeppen spoke at a Lake County Fair Association Board meeting as a concerned member. Koeppen’s stern words at the meeting were conjured from the association’s exponentially worsening debt to construction companies and contractors.
“Money was being spent very rapidly, which was disheartening to see, and the new fairground still wasn’t even completed,” Koeppen said. “There was so much that wasn’t done that should have been done, and there was excuse after excuse. I got tired of the excuses.”
When it came to his notice that the LCFA owed $4 million to the contractors alone while half of the new fairgrounds were still to be built, Koeppen said he felt like the board needed a wake-up call.
“The intent of my comments made last November were to get them moving in a direction they needed to,” Koeppen said.
Koeppen considers himself nothing more than another dues-paying member, but he has been involved closely with the association for more than 10 years. His intense criticism arose when he constantly began witnessing what he referred to as an “overwhelming lack of communication and faulty work” on behalf of the former president of the association, especially concerning the fairgrounds’ move to Peterson.
“The key issue was definitely the leadership and lack of communication in regards to information with the association members,” Koeppen said, “There was almost no communication at that point, as they were making the transition to the new grounds, and very little info was shared with the board members.”
Koeppen claimed that a major lack of foresight was preventing the fair from moving in the right direction, and that measures had to be taken quickly to assure a financially solidified future for the association.
“I saw how hard some of those folks working on things like the new fairgrounds in the past year and I didn’t want all that hard work to disappear due to a lack of communication on certain individuals’ parts,” Koeppen said.
By early 2011, the fair was about $4 million in debt. LCFA attorney Rudy Magna and other LCFA board members agreed to pursue a $7.5 million loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While Magna referred to the debt load as “extremely difficult,” he also assures that changes are occurring at a steady pace and the LCFA is easing back to financial safety.
“Although the USDA loan has not gone through yet, this is the next step in a very elongated process,” said Magna.
All the appropriate papers have been submitted for the USDA loan, which is awaiting approval. Magna says purpose of the USDA loan is to act as more long-term financing, and that it would take the LCFA up to 40 years to pay off the loan.
Although the USDA process is a slow one, with the help of Magna acting as their legal counsel, the LCFA has worked with the State Bank of the Lakes to secure financing through a $6.5 million loan, which holds their financing. State Bank of the Lakes has been the LCFA’s primary bank for four years now, according to Magna, and has been very cooperative with the association in establishing a loan appropriate for the crisis.
The loan is being used now to pay off the debt until further financial assistance can be sought through the USDA loan, which Magna is confident will be approved.
Read Part Two: Debt and The Lake County Fair Association to read about the future prospects for the fair.