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CATTARAUGUS FAIRGROUNDS SOLD TO AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY

The Cattaraugus County Agricultural Society is the new owner of the 33-acre county fairgrounds on Route 353.

The County Legislature this week voted approval of the sale for $1, to transfer the deed and for a five-year contract that will provide $600,000 through 1999.

Legislators have been debating the issue for several weeks and still failed to convince Don McLean, D-Olean, it was a good deal for the county. He cast the only no vote.

The county has been spending about $135,000 a year to maintain the fairgrounds with two full-time employees. McLean said he would support an annual subsidy of $60,000.

"We are not saving taxpayers any money spending $600,000 over five years," he said.

The society will receive $200,000 this year. The contract calls for using $100,000 to repair the grandstand. From subsequent annual subsidies of $100,000, the society will make additional repairs to other buildings and use $27,500 for utilities obtained from the Village of Little Valley, a concern village officials expressed during the sale negotiations.

The society must submit an annual budget to legislators before the money is released.

The county reserves storage and fair exhibit rights in the contract, which legislators did not see before voting approval.

The parcel has been appraised at $1 million. Cattaraugus County is one of the last counties in the state to own a fairgrounds.

The society was the only bidder March 3 at an auction and met a stipulation that the bidder had operated a county fair in the state for 20 years.

If the society fails to operate a seven-day fair, the property will revert to the county under a clause in the deed.

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