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Council pays Brooks more

Tourism consultant Roger Brooks will receive an extra $4,800 from the city of Oak Harbor thanks to a 4-1 vote in the proposal’s favor Tuesday night.

At the same time, it seems unlikely that that the City Council will adopt a finalized version of Brooks’ new tourism-boosting master plan for the waterfront and downtown area at the March 1 meeting, as originally scheduled.

Several council members made it clear at Tuesday’s meeting that they had concerns with the most recent version of the plan, particularly the proposed amphitheater, an outdoor swimming pool and an entranceway to the waterfront park.

The majority of council members did, however, agree to open the city coffers again and fork over the extra money Brooks requested, though at least one elected official was opposed to it.

The city hired Brooks, CEO of the tourism and marketing firm Destination Development, last fall to create a plan aimed at turning downtown Oak Harbor into a magnet for both visitors and residents. His original contract was not to exceed $48,000, but Brooks made a request for an extra $4,800 for all the extra work he said he put in.

City Administrator Thom Myers said Brooks “has given the city extra effort” in his work, which included creation of a new city logo and detailed drawings of his proposals. Myers said the extra money is needed to fund revised conceptual drawings based on all the input from residents and council members.

Councilman Paul Brewer said he’s “not comfortable” with handing out the extra money, especially when there are still concerns and unanswered questions regarding the plan.

“I hate seeing consultants come back and ask for more funds,” he said.

The council ended up agreeing to pay Brooks the extra $4,800 on a 4-1 vote. Brewer voted against it, Sue Karahalios didn’t vote and Richard Davis was absent from the meeting. Voting in favor of the extra pay were Eric Gerber, Sheilah Crider, Larry Eaton and Danny Paggao.

Karahalios and Crider didn’t directly address whether they felt Brooks had earned the extra money, but they did voice concerns about the preliminary plan — which he presented to the public Jan. 27.

The two council members expressed doubts about Brooks’ plan for an amphitheater in the re-named Regatta Beach Park, which is a central facet of his proposal, as well as a proposed outdoor swimming pool.

Karahalios questioned functionality of the amphitheater in an area that is known to often be windy and cold. She pointed out that staff at the sewage treatment plant in the park — which Brooks proposed tearing down — collect data about wind direction and speed. She said that information should be shared with Brooks to help him with the conception of the outdoor facility.

Crider, on the other hand, suggested that Brooks should scrap the amphitheater altogether. She pointed out that other, more southern communities with better weather than Whidbey designed amphitheaters to be protected from the weather and even heat them. Brooks’ proposal does neither.

“I don’t think an open-air amphitheater would benefit us,” she said.

Karahalios and Crider also panned Brooks’ proposal for an outdoor pool in the park. Crider called it “foolhardy” since it could only be used a few months of the year, would be costly to maintain and is located in a bad spot.

Karahalios agreed. “I’m not quite sure he understands we do not need an outdoor swimming pool,” she said.

Karahalios said she was skeptical about Brooks’ plan for a grand entrance-way on Beeksma Drive since it depends on participation by the owner of Oak Harbor Motors, Mike Horrobin.

“I don’t think Mr. Horrobin and he are on the same page,” she said.

Also, she said she was concerned about the aesthetics of the other entranceway and whether the other downtown car dealers are going to go along with the plan.

On the other hand, councilmen Eric Gerber and Larry Eaton said they were very impressed with Brooks’ ideas and all the work he has put into the project. Gerber said the pool is a non-issue because Brooks already agreed to take it out of the plan. Eaton said he trusts Brooks because he is a man of good character.

Mayor Patty Cohen and Crider both said the council members need to sit down with Brooks and discuss their concerns in detail. Brooks, however, cancelled his Feb. 24 meeting with the council members. That means the council won’t meet with Brooks until a workshop prior to the March 1 council meeting, when the finalized plan is supposed to be adopted.

The council didn’t set a new meeting date with Brooks. But Cohen said she will tell Brooks not to re-draw the drawings or make any permanent changes until after he meets with the council.

In a phone interview Thursday, Myers agreed that it is doubtful the council will adopt the plan on schedule. But on the same day, Karahalios said the council could adopt the concept of the plan March 1 and make specific changes later on.

The council is scheduled to meet with Brooks in a workshop at 5:30 p.m. March 1.

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