New agreement pondered for Freeland Hall

Island County officials are negotiating a new contract for a historic South Whidbey building.

Island County officials are in the process of negotiating a new contract for a historic South Whidbey building that was marked by some controversy last year.

In 2022, the county considered transferring the management of Freeland Hall to the South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District. But when the Holmes Harbor Activity Club – which has operated the hall for years – got wind of this discussion, it was swiftly put to an end.

Now staff from the county’s public works department are working with members of the Holmes Harbor Activity Club on a new management agreement for the hall. As part of this agreement, the club will provide revenue, expenditure reports, receipts of all maintenance items and all scheduled events on a quarterly basis to the county. The county will cover interior and exterior maintenance of the building for major repairs costing over $2,501, while the club will cover all minor repairs under this amount.

Assistant Director of Public Works Fred Snoderly presented this agreement to county commissioners during a work session last week.

Commissioner Jill Johnson expressed concern about how the county is generating money to put toward improvements on the building, such as a new roof or replacement of the floors, when the club is making money from renting out the hall and not giving any of those funds to the county. She also worried about deferred maintenance of the hall.

Commissioner Melanie Bacon compared the situation to Four Springs Lake Preserve, a Camano Island property with a public park and a building that can be reserved for events. County funds have contributed to upgrading the facilities.

Freeland Hall is located adjacent to the county-owned Freeland Park on land that is also owned by the county.

Johnson countered that in the case of Four Springs, the rental rate contributes to maintenance of the facility.

Bacon said the Holmes Harbor Activity Club, which is a nonprofit organization, has never been a profit-making group. In a previous Record story, Andy Campbell, the club’s president, stated that revenue raised from event rentals goes right back into maintaining the hall.

Commissioner Janet St. Clair pointed out that if the club wasn’t managing the hall, the county would still have to incur some costs because staff from the county would then have to monitor the building instead.

Snoderly reminded the commissioners that the new agreement will determine just how much revenue the hall is generating and if needed, the contract could be modified to require that a certain percentage of the revenues be put away for repairs.

The commissioners agreed to review the agreement again at a regular meeting sometime in the future.