EDITORIAL: Farm demands communication

A $1.5 million pot of gold from Washington state is at risk unless communication improves between Greenbank Farm Management Group and the Port of Coupeville.

The Legislature approved the impressive funding in the name of economic development on Whidbey Island. Trouble is, the money won’t arrive until the locals get organized. If they wait too long, the pot of gold could evaporate as quickly as a rainbow.

The state money was apportioned to Greenbank Farm Management Group, the non-profit organization that runs the publicly owned farm. Its right to operate comes from a lease with the Port of Coupeville, which owns the farm buildings scheduled for remodeling. Its two-year lease isn’t sufficient to meet state requirements. To get the money, a 10-year lease is required.

Obviously, a new lease agreement between the Management Group and Port is critical. The Port needs to retain ownership of the buildings, while allowing the Management Group the flexibility it needs to spend the grant money. Ideally, perhaps, the grant would have gone to the Port, but that didn’t happen. The Management Group took the lead in seeking the grant and in lobbying for it. Amazingly, it landed the money even in these bleak economic times for the state. Great job, but it resulted in some understandable confusion among the Port commissioners. How can “they” (the Management Group) fix up “our” (the Port’s) property? Good question, but it must be resolved quickly and amicably.

It is essential that the Port and Management Group get together and work out a lease that will satisfy both parties and the state. The situation is ripe for petty jealousies and turf battles, but keep your eye on the goal: $1.5 million to remodel facilities in such a way that they will attract appropriate business development to Greenbank Farm.

Communication is the key. Keep all members of the Management Group, the Port board and, most critically, the public, informed. Public discussions will keep pettiness to a minimum while all work toward the same goal of a bustling, productive, Greenbank Farm. All that is required is trust, good faith and openness, all of which are easier to come by than $1.5 million.

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