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County OKs community center grant application

Plans are moving ahead for the construction of an intergenerational community center on South Whidbey.

At a public hearing conducted during the Island County Board of Commissioners regular meeting Monday, a number of people involved in the planning and financing of the center testified to the commissioners about the cultural importance of the future facility.

Former Island County Public Works Director Larry Kwarsick, who has been pushing for the intergenerational center, urged commissioners to approve an application for a $750,000 community development block grant from the state’s Small Cities program. The planned facility would house both the South Whidbey Youth Center and the Bayview Senior Center.

The grant could cover about a quarter of construction costs, Kwarsick said.

South Whidbey School Superintendent Martin Laster praised the project as both “innovative and fiscally conservative.” He also spoke to the center’s unique potential for serving seniors and youth.

“It’s extraordinary when we can do both at the same time,” Laster said.

Dave Swenson, a member of the South Whidbey Youth Center’s board of directors, said the current location of youth facilities is “bursting at the seams” due to space limitations.

“We are just really excited about this whole project,” said Swenson.

All three commissioners commended the idea of an intergenerational center, as well as the effort to get it started.

“This concept is great,” said Commissioner Mac McDowell.

Speaking to the potential cross-generational benefits, McDowell said the center “gives both groups some real pluses they wouldn’t have by themselves.”

“In terms of community building, it seems to me that this is a giant step forward,” said Commissioner Mike Shelton.

Commissioner Bill Thorn, in turn, described the achievements of the intergenerational planning committee “nothing short of remarkable.”

The commissioners unanimously approved the application for the block grant. Community block grants are intended to fund projects in small communities designed to benefit low and moderate-income households. The proponents of the intergenerational center plan to build it on land owned by the Goosefoot Community Fund at Bayview.

Grant awards will be announced in February.

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