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Port calls special meeting on Greenbank Farm

"Public interest in the future management of the Greenbank Farm has led Port of Coupeville commissioners to schedule a special hearing on the matter next Tuesday.Port board president Michael Canfield called the meeting in order to hear community ideas and what he called constructive recommendations prior to making any decisions.The commissioners are reviewing at least two proposals from organizations interested in managing the 150-acre portion of the 522-acre public farm owned by the Port of Coupeville. They have also been discussing their legal responsibilities with the port's attorney.The farm has been managed by the all-volunteer Greenbank Farm Management Group since its purchase in 1997, but the group's contract with the Port expired in September. Since then, Port commissioners have extended it on a month-to-month basis while they determine their next move.The management group recently presented a report showing that income generated at the farm is insufficient to cover the cost of needed infrastructure such as building repair, water-system improvements and public-access upgrades. The group asked the Port to kick in some capital improvement money - something it has never done.But Canfield has said funding beyond the initial purchase price was never part of the deal and admitted to a reluctance on the part of the commissioners to use more public money to support an operation that has not proven itself to be financially viable.Meanwhile, the management group fired the farm's executive director, dismissed its part-time volunteer coordinator and put various committees on hold. The move surprised many people connected with the farm and angered others. The farm's wine and gift shop employees threatened to walk out but have since decided to give a new interim director 90 days to work things out.Numerous e-mail letters to Port officials since the firings have both defended and criticized the current management group's leadership and are one of the key reasons the commissioners have decided to call a public hearing.The meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Coupeville Recreation Hall on Coveland Street in Coupeville. No final decisions will be made at the hearing, said Canfield. A special meeting may be called later this month to announce a decision. "

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