As of March 1, Washington State University Extension, Island County serves as an independent contractor with Island County instead of a department.
The change will allow Extension to increase programming by 20 percent, without increasing the cost to the county, according to Tim Lawrence, Island County director for WSU Extension.
“We did it primarily to increase programming, avoid confusion and avoid duplicity of administration,” Lawrence said.
Island County Commissioners signed the new contract at the Feb. 27 meeting.
“I’m excited about the academic focus,” said Commissioner Jill Johnson.
All of the commissioners voiced support for the change, which Lawrence said was a year in the making. With the original organizational structure, extension employees were a mix of county and university employees.
All the county employees will transition to WSU employees.
“It’s just streamlining,” Lawrence said. “Avoiding duplication of efforts and increasing the quality of the education.”
Lawrence said this will cut back administration costs because he no longer needs a separate accountant for Island County bookkeeping.
That position was already eliminated in anticipation of the restructure, and that money put toward the small farms and Master Gardner coordinators and the office assistant.
The office is now open five days a week instead of four, and the two coordinators’ hours were increased.
This change expands the classes offered at Extension, which can be teleconferenced in from any WSU campus.
These include programs such as cultivating success, which educates farmers about developing sustainable small farms. Extension is also working with the nursing school in Spokane to bring continuing education video courses via video to the island.
“That’s really what it’s all about, is access and opportunity,” he said.
The new contract is significantly more specific about goals Extension. It lists the number workshops to be held, outreach materials disbursed, number of students served by the 4-H program and other benchmarks, Lawrence said.
“WSU Extension has always been a great value in Island County,” said Commissioner Helen Price Johnson. “This clarifies your mission even more.”
“It will soon cease to be an undiscovered gem, I think,” she said.
“I think the future is very bright.”