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Windjammers work on plan

The committee tasked with implementing Roger Brooks’ $32-million tourism plan for Oak Harbor’s got started last week, though some council members are anxious to get the ball rolling a little faster.

The Windjammer committee — named after Windjammer Park, the new name for City Beach Park — hammered out several important issues, including the purpose and makeup of the committee itself.

The committee spoke with Brooks in a conference call. He explained that the committee isn’t meant to be an advisory or policy committee, but a group that will actually implement the plan. He stressed that the public input portion of the process is over.

“We’ve done the public portion ad nauseam for six months,” he said. “It’s time to implement the plan.”

Also, Brooks said that the membership to the committee should be cut from a dozen people to just six in order to get things moving faster.

“The big deal,” he said, “is for people to see things happening.”

He said the committee members should be a council member, City Administrator Thom Myers, Development Services Director Steve Powers, Finance Director Doug Merriman, a downtown business person and either the mayor or another council member.

The committee, however, decided to go against his advice and cut the committee to eight members, to include Mayor Patty Cohen, Councilwoman Sheilah Crider, Councilwoman Sue Karahalios and Councilman Larry Eaton. A downtown business person hasn’t been chosen yet.

As Brooks directed, the committee decided to start at the top of the list of priorities from the plan and get started. They directed city staff, notably Powers and Myers, to find consultants to do final design of new city signs and to actually fabricate them.

A committee of the Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce has already done most of the research and planning for the new signs. The signs will have the new city logo, featuring two sails, and the new names of downtown destinations, such as Harbor-Side Shops and Windjammer Park.

The committee members discussed the Brooks proposal to rename Pioneer Way as Harbor Avenue, but they didn’t make any decisions.

John LaFond of the Island District Economic Development Council said it would cost Pioneer Way businesses a lot of money to change the address on their stationary.

Karahalios said some people feel nostalgia for the old names, though she pointed out that Pioneer Way used to be Barrington Drive.

Powers, however, reminded the committee that their purpose is to be an implementation committee and they are not supposed to make changes to the plan.

“Roger Brooks advised and cautioned against picking pieces out of the plan to do or not to do,” he said.

But Myers said Brooks made several important changes to the plan at the last minute, including the concept of the committee and new names — including Windjammer Park and Harbor Avenue. The community did not get a chance to comment on these parts of the plan.

In the end, the committee seemed to lose interest in the issue and moved on without a clear decision.

Another issue that wasn’t resolved was the building of kiosks to hold visitor information. Karahalios said students at the high school in drafting and building classes could make the kiosks and they could be funded with a grant, but the school would need to apply for the grant as soon as possible.

Brooks, however, said that a professional should do the work, or at least be involved.

Cohen said the city would be in touch with the school district to see what could be worked out.

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