Letters to the Editor

County money: WSU must cut more than 4-H

Wednesday’s editorial about county budget cuts contained an error.

The editorial said WSU Extension was cut $40,000, the real number was $50,000. Our office was asked to cut one full time staff position and a half time faculty position. It amounts to a 28 percent cut from this year's budget. We are working hard to find additional funding to keep part of the staff position, but will likely lose the faculty position. Obviously we need help and welcome any contributions from our community.

The impacts of the cuts will be much more than to our 4-H youth program. They will likely eliminate the volunteer Food Safety program, the volunteer Ideas for Living program that helps low-income families cope with everyday life, will severely reduce the Master Gardener program, and will also affect the Beach Watchers program. Those people who rely on our office to assist them with plant, insect, household problems may see such services cut back as well. The thousands of callers trying to reach us for help each year will find it increasingly more difficult to get through on phone lines intermittently staffed.

The cuts are particularly damaging to an operation as small and lean as ours. We interact with 679 volunteers in a wide variety of programs reaching out to make our community the quality place it is. Combined, in the year 2001, our WSU volunteers gave back to our island community more than 44,000 hours. If they had been paid minimum wage for their efforts it would value more than a quarter million dollars. That does not take into account all the out of pocket expenses they personally incur to be a volunteer for us.

The West Nile Virus was mentioned in the editorial, a real threat. It was this office that led the charge with the Health Department to develop a Camano Island mosquito abatement district, the first in the county. That kind of community problem solving work will be hampered by diminishing budgets, if not eliminated.

When the funds that support county prevention work are drastically reduced it is reasonable to think we will all pay more later. As a community we need to come together to find acceptable funding solutions in the meantime so we can have the best stewardship of our families, community and this wonderful place we live.

Don Meehan

chair,WSU - Island County

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