NAPOLEON — An agricultural organization’s big plans for the Henry County fairgrounds here received a big boost here Thursday morning.

County commissioners announced a $250,000 donation for the Henry County Ag Improvement Association (HCAIA) toward its community event center project at the fairgrounds.

The association shared plans earlier this year with commissioners and Napoleon City Council to build a new arena at the fairgrounds, replacing antiquated livestock barns. This would be used not only for livestock shows at the annual Henry County Fair, but for events year-round.

The proposed facility would measure approximately 43,750 square-feet and be built on the fairgrounds’ north end. The ag association is engaged in a $2 million capital campaign — led by Dr. Doug Burgei and Lynn Geitgey — to raise funds for the project.

According to a press release issued by Henry County commissioners Thursday, the association has raised about half this amount, including this week’s donation.

“With the county’s support roughly $1 million has been raised to date with significant participation from an enthusiastic private sector,” the press release stated.

During an interview with The Crescent-News Thursday afternoon, Commissioner Glenn Miller said the county’s long-term conservative spending approach has allowed officials to invest in the fairgrounds project.

“We have an opportunity to take some of this cash we’ve been building and invest it back into our county,” he said. “This is an investment partnering with the fair board as well as the Henry County Ag Improvement Association. It is an investment in our county and investment into future generations. ... It’s a collaborative effort. We’ve got all the necessary players on board.”

HCAIA’s president, Nick Elchinger, expressed his group’s appreciation of commissioners’ generosity.

“To have leadership support from the county, combined with support from our local businesses and farms will make all the difference in this campaign to build a community center that will impact our county for many years to come.”

Napoleon city officials are supportive of the project, but have not yet made a commitment. However, Mayor Jason Maasel told The Crescent-News Thursday that one may be coming.

“We hope to participate,” he said. “We’re putting a plan together we feel comfortable with.”

More information on contributing to the campaign is available by calling the HCAIA’s treasurer, Scott Millikan at 419-309-1127, or emailing info@henrycountyag.com. The association’s website is henrycountyag.com.

Miller told The Crescent-News that commissioners will forward the $250,000 to the association through the county’s general fund. Miller said he is “pretty confident” funds that will be distributed to Henry County from the American Rescue Plan Act can reimburse the general fund.

Local officials are still learning about the guidelines for ARPA money, but Miller indicated that the county’s financial situation would be satisfactory even without a reimbursement from that source.

“We had money coming back from workers compensation and reimbursement with CARES Act money, so we do have the cash there and it’s not going to hurt our treasury at all,” he said.

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