Thurston County is laying off its fair manager of more than 15 years and a building-maintenance specialist in hopes of saving the 141-year-old event.
The two layoffs, as well as four other eliminated positions, were announced Friday after county commissioners adopted a $300 million budget for 2013. A professional event-management group likely will run the fair in 2013 and possibly 2014.
An assistant planner and a victim’s advocate also will be laid off. Both were contracted positions funded by grants with an end date that was not extended with the 2013 budget, according to Robin Campbell, county budget and fiscal manager.
The maintenance specialist had worked for the county for six years, the victim’s advocate nearly seven years and the assistant planner for four years. A vacant roads position and a permitting technician position also are being eliminated.
“This is a challenging time,” said Cliff Moore, county resource stewardship director. “There just couldn’t be worst news for staff that are going to be affected by this situation.”
Elimination of the fair manager position, held by Rick Storvick, and the other cuts are the first of a number of steps the county is taking in an attempt to save the fair.
The fair was slated to finish the year with a reserve of $6,000 to $10,000, and organizers had hoped the county commissioners would give $100,000 toward its operating costs in 2013.
Instead, the commissioners provided a $50,000 stipend and the job cuts.
The plan is to move county staff from a property off Mud Bay Road and sell that property to provide funding to pay for a “signature investment” at the fair, such as an enclosed horse arena or an amphitheater.
“The decisions taken around the fair and the eventual movement that will take place have been driven by the reality that revenues are not going to keep pace with expenditures,” Moore said. “The challenge has been these last few years of trying to figure out a model that makes sense at the fair and allows it to be a sustaining entity.”
The staff at the Mud Bay Road building includes the Washington State University Extension Office and the county’s park maintenance crew.
Park maintenance workers will move to the county’s newly remodeled Tilley Road campus; the WSU Extension office will move to the fair.
Upkeep of the fairgrounds now will be a function of parks maintenance. Storage and rentals will be moved to an online system currently used by the county’s parks and recreation department.
“I don’t think anybody is kidding ourselves; we know there is a lot of details we need to sort out,” Moore said. “There are a lot of unknowns we are going to jump right on into on Jan. 1.”