Several Hillsdale county residents have raised concerns about the Hillsdale County Fair’s decision to replace local employees with outsourced security.
Starting last year, the fair’s manager, Mark Williams, said he began employing ADA Security to man the fair’s gates instead of hiring local residents, as the fair had done in the past. He said hiring ADA Security is more cost-efficient for the fair because fair authorities will not have to perform the screening and hiring themselves.
“We run the fairgrounds with three people — an office manager, myself, and our maintenance man, and it’s a very long and tedious process to screen and hire people to work at the fair, especially when they’re handling money,” Williams said.
Williams said since the ADA Security firm takes care of its own screening and hiring, it saves a lot of time and money for local fair officials.
“The idea is basically that these people know the personnel, and they work other fairs throughout the summer,” Williams said. “We don’t have anyone in Hillsdale County we’re aware of that can do that.”
President of the Hillsdale County Fair Board Tom Richards said that past fair-goers have told board members that they were not charged admission fees at the gates. He also said that the fair has seen an increase in revenue since it changed security last year.
“We’re a business, and we have to operate like a business,” Richards said. “We’re self-supporting, so we have to do what’s economically best for the fair.”
Williams said that, with the exception of donations, the fair does not receive outside monetary support.
“Admission to the fair is one of our primary sources of income to continue to put the fair on and maintain the grounds,” he said.
Williams said he would be happy to forward locals’ resumes onto ADA Security, but he has not yet received any requests to do so. He also said the fair can hire locals for other jobs, such as parking maintenance.
“We can offer them other jobs,” Williams said. “But they don’t want to do those jobs; they just want to work the gate.”
Several fair-goers disapproved of the fair’s decision to outsource its security. Osseo resident Judy Bevard has helped man the gates at the fair for several years, and said she was disappointed to find out that the fair would not hire her for security this year.
“It pleases you to just be there and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ and ‘Have a good day,’” she said. “I’d say most of us honest people really enjoyed working at the fair and seeing people and the excitement on kids’ faces — that means a lot.”
Bevard also said she was upset she had to share the consequences of others workers’ dishonest actions.
“For me, I know I’m honest. It would be written all over my face if I wasn’t,” she said.
Hillsdale resident and city council candidate Penny Swan said the fair should support the residents in its own county, and that, at the very least, it should have let Hillsdale County residents know about the outsourcing much earlier than it did.
Swan also said she knows people have been getting into the fair free of charge for years.
“Historically, if you have somebody at the gate, there is a fair chance you’ll get in occasionally for free,” Swan said. “So did the fair ever try to address it? Did they say, ‘We can’t afford this anymore?’ That’s the question I would like to know.”