The iconic windmill at Windjammer park currently has a fence around it to protect the public from debris potentially falling off of the aging structure. The city council is in the process of determining what to do with it before the windstorms of winter increase the risk. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Park windmill becoming a debris hazard

Oak Harbor City Council is considering removing the windmill in Windjammer Park to avoid debris falling off of it during high winds.

A structural inspection conducted earlier this summer revealed rot had crept into the blades.

Cathy Rosen, city public works director, presented the city council with four options for dealing with the problem Wednesday during a city council workshop.

The city already planned to relocate the windmill, so one of the options includes removing the entire structure and reconstructing it at a different location in the future. Other options include making structural repairs immediately, just removing the paddles while leaving the building in place or providing sufficient fencing to prevent the public from being injured by falling debris.

The windmill currently has a fence around it, but it would need to be moved outward during higher winds.

“Put a fence around the windmill, and it looks like it’s in prison,” said Councilwoman Beth Munns during the workshop. “No, we’re not keeping a fence around it, that’s just wrong.”

The council didn’t make a final decision, but the consensus appears to be to remove the entire structure.

When the windmill was originally built in in the late 1970s, untreated wood was used, said Joe Stowell, city engineer. The thickest part of the wood in the middle of one of the blades is coming off, he said. The railing on the deck that wraps around it is also deteriorating.

“When you have untreated lumber out in the elements, that’s what you get,” said Stowell.

Because of the deterioration, relocation of the windmill will likely involve constructing a new, very similar windmill somewhere else, he said.

During the workshop, Rosen said the city does have the original plans for the windmill, which were brought over from Holland.

The idea behind moving it is to place the iconic structure in a more visible place. The council has not yet made a decision on where or when the new windmill will be built.

The structural inspection made it clear, however, that something has to be done soon, or people could potentially be injured in a wind storm. This was an unexpected realization, and, therefore, there isn’t any money in the city’s current budget for any sort of work on the windmill at this time, officials said.

Councilman Jim Campbell said the city isn’t going to be able to avoid spending money on the windmill.

“We need to spend some money on it just to keep it safe for the citizens,” he said.

Public works officials said they plan to go back to the council soon to get a formal decision on how to move forward.