Former Fair Mgr./Commish Weighs In On RV Park

Roger Simmons is a former manager of the Western Idaho Fair as well as a former Ada Commish. He offers a historical perspective on the recent post about the RV park and issues surrounding the proposed evictions and expansion.


In 1987 when I was hired as the Manager of the Western Idaho Fair, I inherited a more than quarter-million dollar debt and a facility that was sadly in disrepair. At that time we had a small RV park for the horsemen.

However, the RV park had been neglected, it was dilapidated and most of the structures were near collapse. The state electrical inspector was prepared to shut the park down for safety reasons. While the fairgrounds needed an RV park for the horsemen and interim event exhibitors, the fair had no money and would have had to pass a bond issue to incur long-term debt to build a new RV park.

Based on the fair’s financial condition at the time, I saw almost no chance of convincing voters that we were a worthwhile financial risk. I also had no desire to drive the fairgrounds deeper in the hole, and the commissioners had no desire for the fairgrounds to get into a competitive arena with private enterprise. I approached the county commissioners with the idea of a public-private partnership.

The area where we proposed the RV park had been used by my predecessors as a dumping ground and a passive sewer treatment pond. There were environmental issues. When we put out the Request for Proposal we not only required a significant investment to build the park, each proposer would have to deal with the extraordinary expense of cleaning up years of environmental abuse. The proposition was to require an investment in the facility that the fairgrounds could not afford while allowing the proposer to recoup their investment over a certain number of years and make a reasonable profit after future expenses.

If that seems like a great deal to many of your readers, I should point out that after a tremendous amount of publicity and advertising, we received only one bid. Apparently no one else anticipated the potential for a return on investment that the current operators envisioned. As previously mentioned the RV park was created to serve the needs of horsemen, exhibitors, carnival workers and others with business on the fairgrounds. The current operators marketed the park to snowbirds and others with a need for temporary RV facilities. Somewhere along the line in the last several years the lengths of stay have increased to where the RV park has become something of a mobile home park. That’s an issue that could have been and still can be dealt with through existing and potential zoning measures. There has never been a need to wait until the lease expires to resolve that issue.

As you can see the fairgrounds RV park was born out of necessity to address a demand for temporary accomodations, and the deal was much more complicated than allowing a private individual to make a profit from a public facility for nothing more than a small annual rent payment.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Dave in Emmett
    Aug 3, 2010, 1:28 pm

    So what I’m getting from this Roger is the current commission has seen the environmetal issues dealt with, the propertry cleaned up, and now they want it back so they can sell it to the developer that has expressed an interest in it.

    And still no mention of the human aspect of this story. I can be quoted as saying at least once, those people don’t own property in Ada County that can be taxed. This clearly explains the commissioner’s indifference to them. In plain english, the park residents don’t line the pocket of the commissioners so they don’t matter.

    There are more people living on the fringes of our society, many of them living like these folks, than you know. We only hear about them when a tragedy like this takes place.

  2. Another of Roger’s public-private partnerships gone awry.

  3. Well well well as Paul harvey would say “now you know THE REST of the story”

    Makes sense to me, and seems was a wise decision at the time.

  4. Sounds like this whole mess is Bush’s fault

  5. Rock, climb back under it roger.

  6. anotherdooropens
    Aug 3, 2010, 6:32 pm

    Thanks to Roger for giving us the background. Sounds like it was a wise decision at the time. Now, of course, the investment by the private party has been recouped in the form of rent, and the city has a marketable (economic conditions notwithstanding) piece of property. Why should now the taxpayers be forced to support it as subsidized housing? That is totally nonsensical,somewhat akin to the Payette Lakes group trying to keep the state from getting a fair market value rent because they feel a divine right to the property…it just doesn’t wash.

  7. Fairgraounds RV park. Public/Private relationship.
    Ada County Courthouse.
    Public/Private relationship.
    Gee, Roger, looks like your batting 0 for 2!!

  8. And one more thing… where were Tilman, Yzagguire, Woods and the others when “…somewhere along the line in the last several years” they turned it into a trailer park with long-term residents.

  9. Excellent piece of history. Yet sadly, the mainstream media is playing the appeal to emotion logical fallacy card. Sorry folks, but when you don’t own your land you can be evicted.

    Even if you do own your land you can still be evicted. Try neglecting to pay your property taxes for a few years and see what happens.

    Erico49 makes a good point, how did it get to this point? Can anyone post the contract/lease between Ada County and the RV Park operator?

  10. We pay commissoners $400,000 each year (100 plus benefits each). That’s enough for a lot of micro management. I remember when Sharon talked about getting a squeaky fan fixed in a restroom at the paramedics building. And I assume we pay a fair manager a pretty penny to manage the property, too. Cynic is right. If your house comes on wheels and you park it on land you don’t own, you better plan an option or two.

  11. Dave in Emmett
    Aug 9, 2010, 1:00 am

    This story needs to stay alive. I’m convinced that Sharon Ullman and crew are up to something beyond a simple cleaning out of the RV Park. But that doesn’t give them the right to violate state law. IRS 55-20 clearly states that the park RESIDENTS are to be given 180 days to vacate if the park is to be closed. Hopefully one of those people will go to legal aid and get some help. Shame on Sharon for trying to pull a fast one.

  12. I have had a run in or two with Ms. Ullman….nice is not something I would refer to her as. Nor would I expect her to act, in any way, with thoughts of anyone but herself.

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