Grant may be reallocated for fairgrounds projects

The Port of South Whidbey is requesting permission to improve on the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds.

The Port of South Whidbey is requesting permission from Island County officials to shift some funds for improvements on the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds to other projects.

In 2018, the port, which owns the fairgrounds, received a Rural County Economic Development grant totaling $688,610 for capital and infrastructure projects. Progress, however, was hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying challenges; County Administrator Michael Jones wrote in a memo to the county commissioners that there were difficulties in securing contractors and obtaining materials, which combined with the inflating cost of materials and lead to the delay of the projects and unexpectedly high costs for much of the work.

The port is hoping to reallocate some of the planned funds between pre-approved projects included in the 2018 grant. The original request called for upgraded utilities at the campground to receive $37,500, but the new request allocates $163,841.

Port Executive Director Angi Mozer explained that and some of the other reallocations to the county commissioners during a work session on April 3. Though there had originally been plans to bring heat to the Malone building – a $37,500 improvement – a new long-term tenant does not require it for operation. The scope of work planned for the Coffman commercial kitchen and meeting room was also narrowed, taking it from a $137,500 project to $97,500.

Commissioner Melanie Bacon asked what projects had already been completed. Mozer responded that the list included three phase electric power, backflow prevention assemblies installation, and the new campground restroom and shower facility. Bacon expressed concern that not enough has been finished in the past six years since the grant was approved. In defense of the port, Commissioner Jill Johnson pointed out that the economy took a hit during the pandemic.

Jones said the contract requires an amendment to carry out the changes. The commissioners agreed that the issue should come before them again at a later date. The grant expires at the end of 2024.