The flashing lights and sounds of the midway will soon enliven the Union County fairgrounds, and local law enforcement agencies are working to ensure it remains a safe place for all.

The flashing lights and sounds of the midway will soon enliven the Union County fairgrounds, and local law enforcement agencies are working to ensure it remains a safe place for all.

Marysville police chief Floyd Golden said Thursday that his department is currently conducting background checks on workers hired to staff this year's fair, following the passage of legislation by Marysville city council last year.

"These background checks are done on those that operate the rides, the novelty stands, and the games," Golden said. "Those are the people covered in the ordinance; those who have food or beverage stands are not covered."

The council enacted emergency legislation on July 10, 2008 that requires licenses for those who operate fairs, carnivals, concessions or amusement rides in the city of Marysville. That legislation also requires felony warrant and sexual offender registration checks for all carnival workers.

Golden said his department is currently conducting standard background checks on employees of Kissell Brothers Amusement Company.

"They've already submitted about 30 names," Golden said. "They've been very cooperative with us. We're working with another vendor from the Springfield area; we'll probably be getting that information on Saturday. It's not unusual for us to get a lot of names as we get closer to the fair - there's a bit of a last-minute crunch period."

Representatives of the Union County Fair Board and the Greater Ohio Showman's Association (GOSA) supported the idea of expanding background checks for individuals involved in public events who have access to children during a meeting of the council's public affairs committee last August. According to Union County prosecutor David Phillips, who authored the legislation, while the original legislation would have prohibited some offenders from working at the fair, the final legislation only required the amusement company to submit a list of its employees for background checks. As the ordinance is currently written, sexual predators are not prohibited from working on the fairgrounds.

During that meeting, Marysville director of administration Jillian Froment said the decision not to include a prohibition in the ordinance was carefully thought out.

"In collaboration with prosecutor Phillips, the city worked to develop an ordinance that would ensure the safety of Marysville citizens, while not overly infringing on the rights of amusement companies to run their businesses," Froment said. "This ordinance provides a method to identify sexual offenders/predators that an amusement company intends to employ at the county fair and allows the city of Marys-ville to then enforce existing state and city prohibitions applicable to these sexual offenders/predators."

Golden said that about 60 background checks were performed by the police department last year. As a result of those, police discovered that Robert Lee Copes Jr., 33, described by police as a homeless man from Dayton and a Tier III sexual offender, was listed as an employee of Kissel Brothers. Copes was convicted of gross sexual imposition or an offense against a child under the age of 13, according to Phillips. Copes was fired by the amusement company when this was discovered.

Golden added that in the past year his department has received calls from other law enforcement agencies wanting copies of Marysville's ordinance.

"My feeling is that if this only turns up one person who shouldn't be working at the fair, it was well worth the effort," Golden said.