More companies demanding money from district fairgrounds - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

More companies demanding money from district fairgrounds

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JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Unpaid bills are still piling up for the new fairgrounds outside Jonesboro.

More companies have come forward recently to demand money for working to complete the project.

At least 17 companies have now filed liens against the Craighead County Fair Association, according to documents obtained from the circuit clerk's office.

Court records show that collectively the contractors are still owed more than $3.2 million.

The Northeast Arkansas Exposition and Conference Center officially opened last year in September. Five months later, it appears the county fair board cannot pay for the finishing touches.

Attorneys for at least 17 contracting firms have filed liens since the Northeast Arkansas Exposition and Conference Center officially opened in September 2012.

They claim that the fair board has yet to pay them for costs related to everything from construction to plumbing to lighting.

Barker Brothers Asphalt filed the first lien on December 27, 2012. The company is reportedly owed $304,343.10 for construction of streets, driveways and parking areas at the new fairgrounds.

Adams & Cooper Plumbing in Jonesboro made five claims to the court, demanding $330,913.07 altogether.

Bailey Contractors from Bono is trying to get back $481,693.63, while Jonesboro City Water & Light claims that it is owed $223,603.85 for installing lighting throughout the fairgrounds.

The fair association has reportedly run up the largest bill with Vance Construction and Properties, which claims to have mostly monitored the project as it progressed. It values the work that it did at $846,350.61 – an amount that is still left unpaid.

Region 8 News reached out Wednesday to all 17 contractors that have filed liens to formally try and protect their investments.

Some of the companies were unable to be reached by phone, and a few declined requests for comment citing legal issues.

At least six business owners spoke off-camera, and all seemed to run into payment issues within a month or two after the fairgrounds opened.

Their lawyers are now considering further legal action if the bills remain unpaid.

If they decide to file lawsuits, then a judge could make the fairgrounds go into foreclosure.

Several business owners said Wednesday that that is the last thing they would like to see happen, adding that they had previously completed work for the fairgrounds and were always paid on time.

This has many questioning where the Craighead County Fair Association gets its money.

It operates as an independent organization governed by a board of directors.

Region 8 News learned the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission funds at least part of its operations.

Since 2009 records show that the commission has awarded the fair $102,220.04 in "premium funds," which are used to cover annual expenses like livestock prizes.

During that same time, the commission has also given an additional $138,493.05 to the fair to help cover the cost of construction, maintenance and upkeep.

Region 8 News filed a written request Wednesday seeking more recent information regarding the fair association's 2012 budget, its income sources and expenses paid.

We also asked to see the construction budget detailing money appropriated and vendors paid for the new fairgrounds property, located on U.S. 49 North.

Eddie Burris, the president of the NEA district fair board of directors, has yet to provide those records.

Region 8 News also reached out again to Robert Gibson, the attorney representing the Craighead County Fair Association. He has yet to return a call for comment or clarification about this outstanding debt.

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