State money will help State Fair rebound from flood

The North Dakota State Fair will be getting more than $3.4 million in state funds to help with expenses related to the 2011 flood.

Two legislative bills signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple this week provide $2.75 million for repairs to asphalt and a gravel parking lot and $674,361 to pay expenses not covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the flood fight and recovery.

Between the floodwaters and dike-related truck traffic on the fairgrounds, the asphalt on the fairgrounds took a beating, fair manager Renae Korslien said. The state appropriation was somewhat less than the $3.5 million requested to fully fund the estimated repair cost.

“But this is wonderful. We are very, very grateful,” Korslien said.

The State Fair might use some of its operating funds to augment the state funds and also could adjust the scope of the project to fit the money available, she said. The fair will be letting bids on the work soon.

“We hope to get a lot of it accomplished by the fair,” Korslien said, noting that the work should bring the fairgrounds back to its pre-flood status as well as make it a “safer and cleaner” environment for fair-goers. The 2013 fair begins July 19.

The Legislature’s $674,000 appropriation to the fair will help pay off a $4.5 million loan that covered the building and removal of dikes around the State Fair Center and grandstand and costs of cleanup following the flood. FEMA money covered a large share of the loan repayment.

The bill providing the reimbursement to the fair also gave $52,745 to Minot State University to cover the state match and FEMA-ineligible expenses associated with the flood. MSU was able to request state funds only for restoration projects completed as of last December, said Brian Foisy, MSU vice president for administration and finance. The bulk of the infrastructure restoration will occur this spring, with that reimbursement request coming in the next legislative session, he said.

The $52,745 covers expenses associated with construction and removal of the temporary dike, minor flood repairs in Lura Manor, temporary security measures and shelters for emergency workers and flood victims.

The Legislature appropriated $546,000 to the State Fair for exhibitor premiums. This is a $26,000 increase over last biennium.

Premiums paid to individual exhibitors haven’t changed much over the years, but increased appropriations are needed to keep up with the growing number of exhibits, Korslien said. More than 45,000 exhibitors showed at the fair last year. FFA exhibits have grown considerably and 4-H exhibits have been holding steady, indicating a strong interest by the state’s youth in the fair, she said.