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Record South Whidbey

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Falcons test their swings See...A8

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26, 2014 | Vol. 90, No. 25 | www.SOUTHWHIDBEYRECORD.com | 75¢

Fair plan a must, proponents say “I hate to say it’s about the money, but it’s about the money.”— Dan Ollis

Financial crunch forces Commons director cut By BEN WATANABE South Whidbey Record

Ben Watanabe / The Record

Dan Ollis, a fair association director and a member of the fairgrounds steering committee, rests on the bannister of the grandstand at the Island County Fairgrounds. Below the seating is where the alpacas are kept during the annual fair.

By BEN WATANABE South Whidbey Record There have been times when it rained so hard that a small pond formed in the horse arena at the Island County Fairground. There is even a photo of someone in a kayak paddling around the dirtand-sand arena. Avoiding stormwater drainage problems like that, as well as unused bathrooms and deteriorating buildings, is part of the reason a steering committee of government leaders is proposing a $10.12 million overhaul of the Island County Fairgrounds over 10 years.

The plan, characterized by many as overly ambitious, has sparked criticism from a seemingly wary and skeptical public. Many complain about being surprised or “steamrolled” by the proposal, and remain unconvinced about the reasoning for such a large change to a longtime property. Why now and what’s the problem? The following is an explanation of just what’s going wrong and why.

‘It’s about the money’

According to fair officials, they are spending more on upkeep than the grounds can draw in revenue, and they warn that at the rate the fair

association’s budget is going, it may not make it another five years. “I hate to say it’s about the money, but it’s about the money,” said Dan Ollis, a fair association director and a steering committee member. The property, owned by Island County and operated by the Whidbey Island Fair Association, receives $30,000 for its capital improvements every year through a grant issued to the fair association. Other than that, the fair association has an unfunded mandate to operate the county property SEE FAIR, A9

Lawmakers end 2014 session on South Whidbey By JUSTIN BURNETT South Whidbey Record

Justin Burnett / The Record

Kim Drury of Langley asks state lawmakers about parks funding during a legislative roundup on South Whidbey last week.

Whidbey Island state lawmakers visited the South End last week to brief constituents on highlights of the 2014 Legislative session. Convening at South Whidbey High School before a crowd of about 30 people were District 10 Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton; Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor; and Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano. The three legislators each took about 10 minutes to bring the crowd up to speed about what

they felt were highlights in Olympia, from Bailey’s promotion of a budget that made gains in higher education to Hayes’ unsuccessful bill to not exempt lawmakers from speeding infractions during the session. “My intent in bringing that bill was that we are not above the law,” Hayes said. The bill never made it out of committee. Smith talked about her focus on economic development through the fostering of sustainable energy industries, and echoed Bailey’s sentiSEE LAWMAKERS, A24

Facing a dire financial situation, the board of the South Whidbey Commons cut the executive director position held by Cheryl Sagmeister last week. The loss was followed by an exodus of three other part-time paid staff members, who quit in protest of the board’s decision. Linda Henderson, the Commons board president, said money was the determining factor, not Sagmeister’s performance. “The board made an agonizing decision because the Commons’ financial picture has been very, very tough,” Henderson said. “We just could not afford to have an executive director position at this time.” “There’s been a lot of sleepless nights about this from board members, all concerned. It’s the last thing any of us wanted to do,” she later added. Sagmeister could not be reached for comment for this story. For the past few months, board members for the Commons have worried about its financial stability. Work on the road and underground utilities along Second Street in front of the cafe hit the shop hard, they said, and that has not changed since work began in mid-January. Sagmeister was hired as the first executive director of the commons, a hiring that was originally thought to signal a step toward growth of the small nonprofit. It may have been an over-reach on the part of the Commons board, however, given that SEE COMMONS, A24


South Whidbey Record, March 26, 2014