Business

No state handout for port’s Greenbank Farm dream

Money to pay for a bottling and packaging facility at the Greenbank Farm won’t materialize in 2011.

Jim Patton, Port of Coupeville executive director, announced during Wednesday’s port meeting that a proposal to receive $985,000 in state funding didn’t make it out of the House Capital Budget Committee.

“It’s apparently dead for this year,” Patton said.

He noted after the meeting it was the second time legislators have rejected a proposal to construct a new building at the Greenbank Farm.

Port officials lobbied state legislators for money to build a 10,000-square-foot bottling and packaging facility that would benefit local farmers by providing a place to prepare their products for sale.

State Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, who is a member of the Capital Budget  Committee, said the proposal for the building was submitted after the session started, which was too late for it to be properly vetted and ranked.

She said the allocation of capital project dollars was the lowest it has been in eight years. The priority this year focused on education projects such as supporting school construction and providing dollars for the Public Works Trust Fund, which is a loan program that helps fund infrastructure projects.

With no state money available, officials can still work on other aspects of the project. Currently, such a large building couldn’t be legally built at the Greenbank Farm. The Special Review District zoning that encompasses the publicly owned farm caps new buildings at 5,000 square feet.

To change the regulations, the port has to work with the Island County to tweak the language in the zoning. However, that process takes nearly a year to complete and the financially strapped port district has to shell out $5,150 to Island County.

Patton said he is starting to think about the port’s 2012 budget and he will try to work the fee into next year’s document.

Smith said she is willing to work with the port to submit the project in the 2013 biennium budget. She said the Department of Commerce or the Department of Agriculture could provide assistance to rank the importance of the bottling and packaging building, which would improve its chances of being funded. She said that the groups could also be helpful in finding an alternative funding source.

She complimented the port and the Greenbank Farm managers on developing a project that could have such a visible benefit to Whidbey Island’s farmers.

 

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