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Several Hillsdale county res­i­dents have raised con­cerns about the Hillsdale County Fair’s decision to replace local employees with out­sourced security.

The Hillsdale County Fair is out­sourcing its security options this year. Kaylee McGhee

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.”

  • Ellsworth_Toohey

    If the fair is a for profit cor­po­ration and paying all the taxes anyone else would, it is none of anyone’s business.

    If however the fair is ben­e­fiting from local tax breaks or favors, I can see res­i­dents point.

    • Penny Swan

      Tax breaks are a good question.