By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- The Oregon Senate has given its unanimous support to a bill creating a public corporation to run the Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center.
Senate Bill 7 is the state's latest effort to create a framework for managing the fairgrounds in a profitable manner.
The Senate approved it June 6 by a vote of 29-0.
Oregon lawmakers in 2005 moved management of the fairgrounds out of a separate state fair agency to the state Parks and Recreation Department. The move was made in part because of the state fair agency's inability to turn a profit on the fairgrounds.
Today, the 11-day state fair annually makes money, said Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Salem, who spoke on behalf of the bill on the Senate floor.
But the fairgrounds continues to lose money over the remainder of the year, he said.
Changing the management of the fair to a corporate structure will provide it more flexibility than state agency procurement laws allow for contracts with vendors, advertisers and others who do business with the fair, according to Parks and Recreation officials.
"We're going to try this new approach," Courtney said.
"I'm not going to guarantee you it is going to work," he said, "but it is an area that has large support from those groups that feel they want to make this next step to see if we can hold onto our state fair."
SB7 stipulates the state can dissolve the corporation and resume management of the fair if the corporation fails to turn a profit in three years of any five-year period.
A council would oversee management of the fairgrounds first and then assume management of the fair on Dec. 31, 2015, at the latest.
Until then, the state will continue to fund the fair and exposition center.
The state has budgeted $3.8 million for the fair and exposition center in the next biennium, on top of a $4 million debt service package.
The bill now is in the House.