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LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Fairgrounds study cost too much, plan foolish
Since moving to Whidbey Island nine years ago, a repeated theme coming from Island County is that of lack of funding for critical issues, crime prevention, public health, the court system, etc.
In September of 2013, the three commissioners approved $71,000.00 for a strategic plan to reorganize the fairgrounds.
This money was paid out of the general fund. This strategic plan included mathematical errata. In addition, it included a plan that would only benefit some local Langley businesses, but was of no benefit to the rest of the county — meaning the remainder of South Whidbey, Central Whidbey, North Whidbey, and Camano Island.
Rather than “save the fairgrounds” the theme of this report was “raze the fairgrounds.” Most of the buildings were slated for demolition, including many of the barns used for the fair. In their place would be more commercial, public event structures, including multiple structures unnecessary for a fairground.
Financing loans included secured and non-secured bonds, etc. It was a disaster in the making. Annual payroll alone would exceed $600,000, and when added to maintenance, debt repayment, etc, could well exceed $2 million per annum. This is for an events center that would only benefit a few select Langley businesses.
No serious, pragmatic attention was paid to supporting infrastructure (consider ferry service when our events center hosts 1.4 events per day, 365 days a year). No mention was made of environmental impact of paving the area.
This was extreme foolishness on the part of all three commissioners, spearheaded by Helen Price Johnson.
In my world, $71,000.00 is way too much for the ‘study’ and $15 million is way too much for a taxpayer burden.