JeffCo leaders brainstorm solutions amid efforts to save county fairgrounds

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — What does the future hold for the historic Jefferson County Fairgrounds? That’s the question community members grappled with Tuesday night during a brainstorming session with Jefferson County manager Don Davis.

An original proposal from earlier in January called for the closure of fairgrounds operations. Davis is now expected to make a compromised recommendation to county commissioners on Feb. 4.

The county must find a way to plug an estimated $12.5 million budget hole for 2021, according to Davis. To accomplish this, Davis says cost-saving measures are needed at the fairgrounds — an entity that costs the county roughly $1.3 million every year. The land and facilities, near West Sixth Avenue and Indiana Street, is home to hundreds of events every year.

“This has been for the public use for a long, long time,” a fairgrounds supporter said during Tuesday’s meeting. “To see it go would be pretty tough.”

Adults and children benefit from the equestrian and agricultural activities on the grounds.

“Nobody is running to my office to say, ‘Hey, here’s a bunch of things that we’d like to reduce,’” Davis said.

The 2021 budget shortfall would not exist had voters approved a TABOR property tax initiative last November, according to Davis. But some residents argue the shortfall wouldn’t exist if there had been a better management of county spending from a leadership standpoint.

“They went to the ballot last year — we asked them a tough question and they gave us a tough answer, and so we have to make some tough decisions,” Davis said.

2020 and 2021 budget cuts have been impacting agencies across Jefferson County. Fairgrounds supporters are demanding creative thinking to negotiate a compromise for both the needs of the budget and those who love the land.

A potential solution that appears to be a popular choice is to turn the fairgrounds into Jefferson County Open Space and create a foundation to run it outside of the county’s general fund.

Davis is scheduled to present his recommendation to commissioners on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 8 a.m. at Jefferson County Courthouse hearing room #1. The presentation is open to the public.

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