A group committed to the preservation of the fairgrounds is irate after learning the fair board, not the mayor’s office, was billed $8,000 for community meetings organized by Mayor Karl Dean’s fairgrounds task force, a group assigned to lead discussion on future possibilities for the 117-acre site.
In an email sent Thursday to Nashville media, Lisa Leeds, of the Fairgrounds Heritage Preservation Group, pointed to an $8,000 invoice delivered to the board by the Nashville Civic Design Center, a nonprofit that is working on behalf of the task force to solicit public input on the future of the fairgrounds.
The Nashville Civic Design Center has put on three of four planned community meetings. The $8,000 invoice accounts for the first two gatherings — one in March and the other in April.
“This seems to be another part of the ongoing effort to drain the profits of the fairgrounds operations,” Leeds wrote.
Dean has said the Tennessee State Fair is no longer a moneymaker. He’s made no secret his desire that the fairgrounds property off Nolensville Pike be redeveloped. The final state fair is set for this fall.
Contacted by The City Paper, fair board chair James Weaver said he’s comfortable with the expense.
“The prior processes that we’ve been through in terms of evaluating the fairgrounds and evaluating the fair were all appropriate expenses for the fair board and came from our budget,” said Weaver, alluding to a previous study conducted by Minnesota-based Markin Consulting. “This is really no different than that.
“Really, what the Civic Design Center is doing is facilitating public input into the process,” he added. “Our neighbors being able to have input into this process is really important. That’s really important to the board, to our organization and to our staff.”