By Monroe Roark
Organizers of the July 4
festival that never happened because of heavy rains are hoping
to see it take place Labor Day, Sept. 2, at Nash Farm Park.
The Henry County Board of
Commissioners (BOC) will consider the matter at its Aug. 6
meeting, and Sam Davis of the Henry County Rodeo Association is
ready to move forward.
“It’s just been a battle
the whole time,” said Davis, who saw the agreement for the
original event approved June 18, only to come back before the
commissioners for a special called meeting July 2 at which the
required $4 million insurance coverage was reduced to $2
million, despite the vehement objections of BOC chairman Tommy
Smith, who was not present at the second meeting.
Davis said he had gone
before the Recreation Board as well as the Special Events Board
back in May, and everything seemed to be approved. He said the
Recreation Board approved the rental agreement as well as the
request for sale of beer and wine. The BOC hearing’s sole
purpose, he thought, was to approve the use of fireworks as
stipulated by country ordinance.
As for the event
contract, Davis said he saw a copy for the first time the night
of the June 18 meeting and was told that the insurance amount
was aggregated between all parties – vendors, alcohol provider,
inflatables provider, fireworks provider, etc. – which meant the
requirement was met easily. He found out later that this was not
the case from the county’s standpoint. After he appealed to
individual commissioners and said the event could not take place
under these requirements, a special meeting was called without
Smith’s involvement and the contract was amended.
Smith said he was told
Davis had a copy of the contract before the June 18 hearing, but
did not know when the commissioners received it. In his view,
the matter should always come before the commissioners for final
approval, and not just for the fireworks.
“The BOC has to approve
the contract,” said Smith. “In the past four years, it has just
been signed and has not come before the board.”
There was no discussion
of the contract at the June 18 meeting, and Davis pointed out
that neither he nor his associates were asked if they wanted to
comment or ask questions.
“I thought he got
everything he asked for; he knew about the contract,” said
Smith. “After the meeting he came up and thanked everybody.”
District IV Commissioner
Reid Bowman also did not know when Davis received the contract.
“I do, however, find it hard to believe a person would sign a
contract without at least reviewing it first,” he added.
“Any questions should
have been addressed at the June 18 meeting prior to a vote by
the BOC,” Bowman continued. “At the same time, this was
brought to the BOC in the eleventh hour without any time for
review by the BOC. Because the contract stipulated the terms and
conditions one would assume that both parties agreed; therefore,
a vote was all that was necessary.”
Smith maintains that the
higher amount of insurance is needed.
“If it is a
county-sponsored function, we have $4 million of insurance,” he
said. “The fireworks, the inflatables and alcohol are high-risk.
They have to cover the limits of the county. If there is a $4
million claim and their insurance is $2 million, the county has
to cover the rest of it.”
While several people have
stated that no other organization has ever been held to the $4
million standard, Smith said that such a contract was drawn up
for last year’s event, before he took office, but the amount was
lowered after it was feared that the event would not take place
because of the expense, and the contract was not approved by the
entire board before it was signed.
Davis said he hopes the
Aug. 6 hearing will go smoothly and county officials will not
rehash issues that have already been covered. The Special Events
Board would not give him an approval letter for the rain date
until the BOC gave its approval, he said.
“I don’t have any
answers. I’m not rich enough to get an attorney,” said Davis.
“We are a nonprofit and have lost money the past four years.
This was our year to make it back. At the end of each year, I
made up personally whatever money was short.”
Since the previous round
of meetings, he has heard that some commissioners did not like
the idea of beer and wine at the July 4 festival and the process
might have been easier if that part of the application had been
dropped. He said he thought about it but now feels like it would
“If they didn’t want
alcohol at this event, each of those commissioners should have
told their rec board members not to approve it. They should have
stopped it then,” said Davis. “If any commissioners had come to
us up front and said they didn’t want it at a July 4 event, we
wouldn’t have done it.”
No one expressed any such
concerns before Davis landed a beer provider as a major sponsor,
at which time he felt it was too late to change.
Davis noted plans for the
event included non-alcoholic sections for attendees, and 30
police officers were retained to work the event.
Smith acknowledged that he felt the
county’s policy allowing beer and wine sales at county parks was
totally inappropriate, and he will be asking for a motion to
rescind the policy at a meeting within the next several weeks.
He added that such a move would not affect the Labor Day
festivities should they be approved next week.