Members of Cumming City Council this week reflected — one, regretfully so — on a recent, unanimous vote in which the municipality gave more than $1 million to the authority that operates the Cumming Fairgrounds.
At a Nov. 21 meeting, the council voted on the measure following a brief introduction of the item by Mayor Ford Gravitt.
“We have the revenue that was taken in for this year’s fair, which was $1,096,000,” Gravitt said at the meeting. “[It was] recommended to keep that money in the fair authority … for one year.”
While City Councilman Christopher Light voted yes on the measure at the meeting, he has since provided the Forsyth County News a statement expressing regret for doing so.
Some members of the council said the vote was housekeeping and aimed to ensure that the fair continued.
“The money that the fairgrounds made always went to the fair,” said Councilwoman Linda Ledbetter on Wednesday. “But, this is just kind of formalizing it, so that the fairground — should anyone in the future not want the fair — the fair would have the money to operate.”
Councilman Quincy Holton said on Wednesday the authority operated the fairground and Mary Alice Park, which the city leases from the Army Corps of Engineers, but the fairground was still owned by the city.
“I have since researched the ramifications of this action and do not believe this action was in the best interest of City of Cumming residents.”City Councilman Christopher Light
In his statement, Light said he was “unaware the item was even being called for a vote and regretfully I made an uninformed decision to vote to fund the Fair Authority with 2017 Cumming Fair revenues.” Light said. “I have since researched the ramifications of this action and do not believe this action was in the best interest of City of Cumming residents.”
Light said he was “ashamed and disappointed in myself for making an uninformed decision” and apologized to residents, saying he would “never make an uninformed decision again while serving out the remainder of my term.”
He also said the item was not on the council’s agenda or in the information packet provided to councilmembers.
When asked at the meeting by Linda Ledbetter if the matter was on the agenda, Gravitt said it was.
The item on the agenda was “reappointment of authorities.”
Councilmen Lewis Ledbetter and Chuck Welch could not be reached for comment on Tuesday morning.
Mayor-elect Troy Brumbalow, who was elected earlier this month, provided the Forsyth County News with several documents related to the fair authority.
According to the documents, the authority was created by an ordinance on Feb. 19, 2013, with an eight-member board.
In the ordinance creating the authority, it is stated the purpose is “to create a recreational authority to develop and promote the public good and general welfare through the maintenance, management and operation of the Cumming Fairgrounds.”
In an agreement between the city and authority, the authority received title through a deed with possibility of retriever to the fairgrounds and fair parking for $10 and a lease for Mary Alice Park for $1.
According to online property records, the owner of the fairgrounds is listed as “City of Cumming Fairground.”
The original board was made up of Gravitt, City Administrator Gerald Blackburn, Assistant City Administrator Steve Bennett, Councilmen Lewis Ledbetter and Quincy Holton and then-Councilmen Rupert Sexton, Ralph Perry and John D. Pugh.
In February, the authority terms for Lewis Ledbetter, Holton, Bennett, Perry and Linda Ledbetter were set to expire in 2022.
Per the documents, it appears Gravitt and Blackburn’s terms expire in February 2018.