It appears $53,005.45 has gone missing in Dresden.
More than 100 people attended the Dresden Arena on Wednesday night for the annual general meeting for the Dresden Agricultural Society.
Reports say Lucille Laprise, the president of of the group, told the members she checked the Agricultural Society bank account on Jan. 7 and saw a balance of $89,342.43.
When she checked the same account last Monday, the balance had fallen to $36,336.98.
There were no answers given to the Agricultural Society membership on Wednesday for what happened to the money.
Calls to Laprise by the Sydenham Current have yet to be returned.
Minutes of a meeting held Jan. 9 at a Wallaceburg law office were handed out at the Wednesday meeting.
This meeting was attended by eight members of the Agricultural Society executive who had been voted out Jan. 7
About $5,000 in bills and fees were approved at the Jan. 9 meeting, including $940 in salary and a laptop computer for former Agricultural Society secretary/treasureer Don Gibbs.
The Agricultural Society voted on Wednesday to have the new 12-person board investigate the missing $53,000 and to take back the laptop from Gibbs.
A Dresden Agricultural Society member, who will not be named, told the Sydenham Current the situation is a mess.
“I can’t believe how the board left things … not for the better of the (Agricultural) Society,” the person said. “If they would have just waited to the annual meeting to make the needed changes, we wouldn’t have this mess.”
North Kent Coun. Joe Faas, a member of the Agricultural Society, said he does not want to speculate about the missing $53,000.
“There might be a very logical explanation,” he said. “The new board, one of their mandates is to look into the financials in depth. Until they get a better handle of it, it is hard to speculate. It could be a very legitimate reason.”
Faas said the mood of the meeting was comfortable.
“There was some expressions of concern for the financials,” he said. “A lot of times when there are issues like this that arise, a meeting can get out of hand. That wasn’t the case here.”
Faas said the future still looks positive for the Agricultural Society, but they will have their work cut out.
“They will be holding their regular events with the fair, the demolition derby, the tractor pulls and of course horse racing,” Faas said.
“There is a lot of work to do to prepare, ensuring that the facilities are in good shape and you have the right people in place for the different jobs. They will have a busy agenda. With a relatively new group, it will be trying… there will be a learning curve.”
Faas said the Agricultural Society fully intends to hold horse racing once again at the Dresden Raceway.
“There are some dates scheduled from May 31 to August 3 right now,” he said. “I’m not sure if they plan on going for more.”
The Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) confirmed that it has launched an investigation into the application by the Dresden Agricultural Society to operate the Dresden Raceway in 2015.
Ray Kahnert, manager of communications for the ORC, said the commission was withholding a decision to issue an operating lisence to the Agricultural Society until a new board of directors was in place.
“Until this matter is confirmed, the decision to license Dresden Raceway will be held.”
Faas said the Agricultural Society did an excellent job running the Dresden Raceway last year, the first time they have done so themselves.
“It was a successful year last year, better than some of the surrounding tracks,” Faas said. “I think there is an opportunity there to build on some of those successes. The community really came out to show there support.”