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Farm board concerned about timeline
Hoping for the best but planning for the worst, the Greenbank Farm Management Group Board of Directors met in executive session Thursday to discuss the ongoing lease negotiations with the Port of Coupeville that will allow the farm group to access $1.5 million in state capital project funds.
The two sides have moved closer to reaching an agreement but there are still substantial differences to iron out and the group is growing increasingly concerned that time is running out to complete the planned projects before the end of the fiscal year. Any money not spent by June 30, 2005 could be taken back for reallocation by the state legislature.
Laurel Blankenship, Greenbank Farm executive director, said she has been working with Island County Public Works, Planning and Building departments in designing the improvement projects, so they will be ready to go when the contract is signed.
County officials have given her a timeline of six months from the start of the process to permit in hand. Contractors have told her that demolition and reconstruction of barn number three could take five or six months, if it can be done concurrently with other projects.
Other projects include creating three parking lots, building a small tractor barn with shop and storage, adding a kitchen onto the main barn, and infrastructure work such as storm drainage.
We will work in the most collaborative way (with county officials) to get everything designed and built, Blankenship said.
The three points which still need to be worked out involve what property on the farm is under management group control, what the management fee paid by the Port will be, and a delineation of responsibilities between the Port and management group.
Port Commissioner Ed Van Patten and farm group negotiators Clarke Harvey and Tom Baenen have agreed to several key points, including a 10-year lease, which the state required; permission to proceed with the projects as outlined in the funding proposal; permission for the management group to sub-lease buildings under their control; and for all rent on farm buildings to be paid to the management group.
This last item had been a sticking point for alpaca owner Dick Whittick, who has been waiting to set up a fiber processing mill in renovated barn number two. He has said he would not rent the building if the Port was the landlord. He was unavailable for comment Friday.
Commissioner Van Patten said Friday he is not concerned with the pace of negotiations.
Its just a long process, he said. I think its going along at a pace that it needs to go. He pointed out they want a contract that both sides will be happy with now and 10 years from now.
While the farm group has expressed frustration with Van Patten for what they see as a slow pace, including a meeting cancelled due to his illness in December, Van Patten said both sides have had trouble meeting.
At the January Port of Coupeville meeting commissioners Benye Weber and Bruce Bryson approved Weber as an alternate for meetings with the farm board, and she met with Harvey and Baenen in January, Van Patten said. The farm group has no alternates.
The negotiators tentatively expect to meet again Feb. 25. If it is the last session, Blankenship said the farm management board could hold a special meeting the day after the March Port meeting to put their stamp of approval on the contract, and finally get the project going.
We need to make this vision happen, Blankenship said.
You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at email@example.com or call 675-6611