LOVINGTON — For the first time in five years, patrons of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo will buy cotton candy and carnival rides with cash. The tokens are gone, having served their purpose.
County officials plan to schedule a buyback method for any tokens still out.
“We discussed a one-time buyback program which would be during the week of the fair and rodeo for the tokens that are out,” Fairgrounds Manager Jim Kemp said.
During the last four years, in order to purchase anything from outdoor vendors at the fair, customers first bought tokens at machines situated throughout the fairgrounds. They then exchanged tokens for whatever product they desired.
Commission Chairman Ron Black said, “I don’t think anybody will be sad to see the tokens go, but tokens did serve a useful purpose. They gave us an accurate count on how much people were bringing in. Before that, all we had to go on was what they told us. Now, we have an accurate count of what they’re bringing in and it allows us to set a rate that’s fair to the county and fair to the (vendor).”
The county charges vendors for space at the fair previously set as a percentage of daily income.
Kemp agreed with the Fair and Rodeo Board determination that the tokens had served their purpose and elimination of them would be accepted.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of the public and vendors and it was a real popular decision to discontinue using the token machines,” Kemp said.
At the recommendation of the fair board and Kemp, county commissioners in May approved a new method of collecting fees from outdoor vendors.
County Manager Mike Gallagher said convenience for fairgoers is an added advantage of eliminating the tokens.
Kemp explained the use of the token machines over the last four years has provided enough information to develop an average income for each vendor, allowing the county to set a flat fee.
The commission established the following changes to the food vendor contract:
1. Implementation of a $300 per unit performance fee.
2. Implementation of utility charges per unit.
3. Implementation of a flat fee in lieu of 10 percent of daily sales.
4. Space, performance fee and utility charges due upon return of the contract.
5. County Management to establish due dates for payments.
The $300 performance fee is refundable, Kemp explained, as long as the vendor remains on site for the full duration of the fair and rodeo and the vendor leaves the space clean.
Implementation of utility charges, electricity, waste removal and water, will be new.
“The county has always just eaten those,” Kemp said, noting he anticipates significant reduction in costs to the county.
“This would allow the county to eliminate the use of the tokens and token machines. This would also allow the county to not have the depreciation expense of the token machines,” he said. “Last year we spent almost $10,000 on maintenance of the token machines. Right now, we have six to eight that are inoperable.”
He also clarified the changes only affect food vendors outdoors and one that uses the kitchen facilities inside, but not general indoor booths.
“(Elimination of the tokens) relieved the county of a cumbersome dollar amount in labor and cumbersome physical labor for families of four or five to carry around a lot of tokens,” Kemp said. “It actually rid the vendors of having to cash in their tokens every night.”