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LEE COUNTY | County takes over fair operations after failed contract negotiations

Fair association claims they were 'abruptly removed'
Lee County Fair
Posted at 4:14 PM, Oct 19, 2023

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The Lee County Fair Association is no longer in charge of the fair, claiming it's canceled. However, the county says it's taking over and the fair will go on.

The decision was made on October 17 by Lee County commissioners. Though, the association says the process was a "long, carefully orchestrated chain of events by Lee County government."

In a statement on the fair's website, the Fair Board claims during contract negotiations, it submitted a counterproposal before there was no communication.

"There was communication," said Dave Harner, Lee County Manager.

They go on to claim the assistant county manager said they are at an impasse at the October 17 meeting, and the fair went into the control of Lee County.

On Thursday, Harner and Lee County Commissioner Mike Greenwell announced a press conference to "address the status of Lee County's fair."

"We have had one-year contracts continuously, probably about three or four, with the Fair board with the last one being noted that this would be the last agreement act we would have with them," Harner explained. "Unfortunately, we couldn't come to terms."

Harner said they tried to work with the association past the last contract expiration date in September, and there have been negotiations for a number of years.

Fox 4 asked Harner what specific items could not be agreed upon in the contract.

Harder first noted the condition of the Lee Civic Center, which has been a long-standing issue.

"We’ve talked about this a number of times, the condition of the facility was failing," he said. "That building is in disrepair. Something has to happen with it."

In a 20-year procurement agreement that expired in 2020, it said the association is in charge of all costs of operation and maintenance of the Civic Center.

"And this is not a knock on anybody, but unfortunately some entities just don’t have the capacity to put that type off money into a facility," Harner said.

In 2022, commissioners approved an assessment of the Lee Civic Center to look at improvements and the price tag to do that, which is around $15 million.

Harner went on to say they could not come to terms on the length of another contract and other specifics.

Fox 4 reached out to the fair association for comment, and have not heard back as of Thursday afternoon.

Harner says to pay for the fair, they will reimbursed through fair revenue. Lee County leaders said the fair, along with the 4-H program, will happen on February 24.

Commissioners will meet at a December workshop to determine the future of the Civic Center.