With the latest craziness surrounding the sale of the Orange County Fairgrounds, I would just like to add some history and perspective.
The proposed sale has been a very trying and convoluted process spanning many, many months. Having been one of the city of Costa Mesa’s negotiators, I spent numerous hours putting together the best deal possible for both the fairgrounds and Costa Mesa. During the past year, we were up against many deadlines demanded by the state, and kept meeting those deadlines knowing that the property would be put back on the market if we did not. Finally, we had a purchase and lease agreement and an MOU [memorandum of understanding] that would preserve the annual fair, the current public uses, equestrian center and marketplace in addition to providing future revenue in the hundreds of thousands to the city. Our deal with Facilities Management West was agreeable to the state’s Department of General Services and the governor’s office. All that was needed to preserve this jewel in our city would have been a bill to be passed by the Legislature authorizing the deal.
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond the control of both the city and Facilities Management, the bill was dropped and state lawmakers failed to deliver for Orange County. This set in motion the current bid process, which the governor’s office had explained to us would happen if we failed.
All through this process, the governor’s office has been upfront about their plans, even though we disagreed with the state’s intention to sell the property. I find it appalling that they are vilified for how they conducted business. Be upset that they started this process due to a ridiculous budget situation, but know that they were upfront and honest with us through the whole process.
As to Facilities Management, which someone characterized as abandoning the city “at the altar,” I have dealt with this company for several months. Never was the idea of not having a fair proposed. They have consistently worked toward preserving the fair and all the public uses on the grounds. They have some very dynamic ideas on how to enhance the overall use of the property, and I can only wish them luck in their endeavor.
Last summer, Facilities Management became the preferred vendor selected by the city. In several 4-1 votes, the lease agreement and memorandum were finalized. We spent many, many hours hammering out the details of these agreements to ensure the continued public use and preservation of our fairgrounds. The deal is and was a good one.
As we go forward through the current legal challenges, I can attest to the Facilities Management’s professionalism and integrity in all the dealings we have had together. There is no doubt in my mind that they will continue their diligence in providing the fair and uses we all want at the fairgrounds. The reality is the state has decided to sell the fairgrounds. If successful, I believe that the winning bidder, Facilities Management, will work with the city to continue to operate and improve our beautiful asset, the O.C. Fairgrounds.
GARY MONAHAN is the mayor of Costa Mesa.