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Skateboard park is over budget

South Whidbey skateboarders and freestyle bicyclists hit a pothole this week on the road to building a skate park.

On Wednesday, South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District commissioners and others interested in building the park learned that construction will be at least $35,000 more expensive than they thought.

The proposed facility, to be located at South Whidbey Community Park, is a collaboration between the parks district and the South Whidbey Rotary Club. The Rotary Club raised $100,000 in donations to build the park, and the parks district has a $50,000 state grant in hand to put toward construction.

But plans drawn by California architects Purkiss-Rose-RSI and recently sent to the Rotary Club and parks district estimate construction costs of the 10,000-square-foot skate and bicycle recreation site to be $170,000. Add to that the sales tax collected by the state of Washington.

Ed Gemkow, president of the Rotary Club, was unpleasantly surprised by the number.

"We are trying to determine what's going on," he said at Wednesday's park district meeting. "The architects were given a budget to stay within, and they went over."

He said Rotarians have some options.

"Maybe they can cut it back. If not, we will be hitting the pavement for more fundraising," he said.

Rotary paid $15,000 for design fees, donated another $15,000 from the club and raised $70,000 through fund-raising efforts in the community.

Committees from Rotary and the parks district will be meeting soon to find a solution to the money problem. Suzette Hart, the director of the parks district, said smaller may be better in this case.

"We may be looking at reducing the size of the park, if that's reasonable, or plan on additional fund-raising," she said.

To keep things moving smoothly on this end, the district and the Rotarians also hammered out an agreement Wednesday that lays out who is responsible for various portions of the project. The agreement commits Rotary to provide design funding for the park, a cost and construction schedule, fund raising, and support for the construction to completion. The Rotary Club may not obligate the parks district for any portion of the cost without the district's approval. The Rotarians must also carry $1 million of general liability insurance for the project.

The parks district will provide the skate park site, ensure that all contractual agreements meet public construction requirements, solicit grant funds, and carry another $1 million in liability insurance. The agreement further states that Rotary will have no claims to the operation of the park or responsibility for maintaining it.

Groundbreaking was not to take place until the club raised $100,000. The club met that goal late last month.

It still may be a while before skateboarders will be doing ollies - a basic trick of tapping the tail of a skateboard and flipping the front in the air - but both parks officials and Rotary say South Whidbey will get a skate park.

"We will be meeting in the next couple of weeks to discuss how we can move forward," said Gemkow.

Park construction is scheduled to begin this spring.

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