County approves fair maintenance

Island County commissioners approved $30,000 for maintenance of the Island County Fairgrounds Monday, although management of the property remains uncertain.

Monday’s vote to put some “placeholder” funding toward the fairgrounds was part of the larger discussion about the Capital Improvement Plan, which needed to move forward this week. The county has traditionally given the fairgrounds association $30,000 for maintenance which they say is not enough.

The plan will now go to the Island County Planning Commission for discussion and public comment.

Commissioners, wanting to invest in a short-term solutions, have directed staff to reach out to the Port of South Whidbey, the parks district and fair association to find out what it would take to put out a request for property management proposals.

While Commissioner Helen Price Johnson initially proposed that the county pay for a temporary county employee to manage the fairgrounds, commissioners seemed to find common ground on putting out a request for a contractor at Wednesday’s work session.

“We have to make a short-term decision about how best to manage it,” Price Johnson said. “I think that we would do well to make a decision today … while we work out the rest of the details for the long term.”

Commissioner Jill Johnson said her preference was to have the request come out of the Port of South Whidbey, but she would also be willing to help fund the position through a parks district or the Island County Fair Association.

“I’m willing to invest some funds in the short term to ensure we don’t drop the ball and partner with others about the future of the fairgrounds because I believe in what the fairgrounds is for South Whidbey,” Johnson said.

Earlier this month, Port of South Whidbey commissioners voted unanimously to consider taking over management of the Langley property, a job currently performed by the Island County Fair Association.

Fair Association board member Dan Ollis said the group was “saying uncle” on managing the property because it has simply become too costly.

“The property itself has drug those four days of the fair down a road that has made us uncomfortable about putting on a successful event,” Ollis said. “We don’t want to hurt the fair. To us, we can no longer take away from what is our driver to support the off-season. We believe its time to put our cards on the table and say we are hurting that four-day event if we continue to do this.”


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