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December 12, 2012

City donates $32,000 to help keep ag center afloat

Officials will work in conjunction with county’s annual appropriation

With the economy taking a toll on everything from event bookings to attendance, funds are tight for the Cullman County Agricultural Center. So tight, the non-profit board behind the longtime attraction is asking for help to keep the doors open.

Earlier this week the City of Cullman approved a one-time $32,000 appropriation to the agricultural center, located on U.S. Highway 31.

“This is something we’d been looking at doing,” Cullman Mayor Max Townson said.

The Cullman County Commission already gives the non-profit board that manages the center a $32,331 annual appropriation, but those funds are not enough to pay the bills anymore.

“It’s just the economy is bad and we don’t have the events we used to have,” center director Marlin Jennings said. “We requested this because things were getting so low. We completely ran out of money at one point two months ago. This will help keep the building afloat, and I can guarantee there won’t be a penny of it wasted.”

Jennings said bookings and attendance have consistently dipped in recent years, which has slowly slid the finances deeper into the red.

“Even with the horse shows, people have the big trailers with living quarters they’d bring, but the diesel fuel is so high people can’t afford to come to the horse shows,” he said. “For some of our other events, people say they don’t have enough interest to pay the entry fees anymore.”

In addition to general operating expenses, Marlin said the city’s appropriation will also help with some much-needed repairs to the aging facility.

“That’ll go toward some remodeling, with broken lights, some of our water fountains are broken and things like that,” he said. “I really want to thank the city for helping us keep it going. We couldn’t make it without the help.”

The ag center has been a staple of Cullman for decades, and despite the recent problems, Marlin said he still believes the operation is an asset for the area.

“It brings in a lot of revenue for motels and people eating out and things like that,” he said. “I think it can still be a big part of the community.”

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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