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WIC, other groups relocate off base
The Women Infants and Children’s program is among the groups who have moved or are being moved off Whidbey Island Naval Air Station as part of a national push.
As the result of a Government Accountability Office audit, the federal government decided to stop paying for non-federal agencies to use buildings on base rent and utility free, according to Sheila Murray, public affairs officer for Navy Region Northwest Environmental.
“They found that there were a lot of non-federal agencies using facilities on military bases,” Murray said. “People are using the facilities for free and the taxpayer is footing the bill.
“It’s a belt tightening measure.”
The program, commonly referred to as WIC, faces the biggest challenge in its move off base, because it will be trying to serve an active duty population off base, according to WIC manager Wende Dolstad.
While WIC is a federal health program, it is administered through states causing it to be categorized as a non-federal entity.
“WIC is a really helpful program and we want people to continue to participate,” Dolstand said.
“We’re concerned some Navy families wouldn’t be as likely to participate.”
The NAS Whidbey WIC office, which is administrated out of Skagit County, serves approximately 800 Navy mothers and babies and the separate Island County WIC office services 970 mothers and babies under the age of 5.
Dolstad said that a move off base will not likely change the Navy-centric nature of her clientele, but an off-base location would increase the program’s ability to help non-military families.
A recent survey given to her WIC clients about the imminent move revealed that most respondents said they want the office to stay a Navy-related program and if it can’t be located on base, they hoped it would stay near base, she said.
Dolstad said WIC has looked at four different locations off base, but officials have not yet found the right space. The Navy has given them a Sept. 30 deadline.
The WIC program is funded on a per-person basis and Dolstad said it would take some creative budgeting to take on the additional overhead costs.
Including WIC, four total organizations have moved or will move off base.
Two groups that already vacated facilities on NAS Whidbey were the Whidbey Animal’s Improvement Foundation, or WAIF, and the Bowman Club, according to Mike Welding, public affairs officer at NAS Whidbey.
Though he wasn’t around for the move last year, WAIF’s new executive director, Charles Vreeland, said that the organization lucked out with its partnership with the City of Oak Harbor.
Similar to their arrangement on base, the city is picking up the rent and utility cost for the new location off of Goldie Road.
Representatives with the Bowman Club, an archery group, could not be reached for comment.
The fourth group, the PBY Memorial Foundation, is in the process of moving to the former Whidbey Furniture location on Pioneer Way with a soft opening planned for June 6.