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Boards due for change

County to expand Parks and Recreation duties

— The Okanogan County Parks and Recreation Board will soon be repurposed to serve the entire county, and a new board in charge of overseeing the county fair will be created.

Okanogan County commissioners discussed their plan Thursday with the current Parks and Recreation Board. The primary reason for repurposing the board is to update its capital facilities plan, which is used to help assemble the annual budget, county Planner Perry Huston said.

“We need the title back,” he said to the parks board members.

“We’re behind on our capital facilities plan. It needs to be caught up,” Com-missioner Jim DeTro said.

In turn, the county will create a separate fair board under a different section of state law to oversee the fair. Current parks board members may have to be dismissed, making them free to apply to serve on the new fair board, and new volunteers will be sought for the parks board.

Tongue-in-cheek, Huston said the current members could apply to volunteer on both boards.

“Your purpose needs to be the fair,” DeTro said, noting that the Parks and Recreation Board would continue maintaining the fairgrounds while the fair board focuses on the event itself.

“Well, we might be able to do that,” parks board member Bill White said.

In addition, the parks board’s current responsibilities don’t include other tasks that would ordinarily be assigned to it, such as trails maintenance and weed control, Huston said.

“We don’t know how they got stuck together in the first place,” DeTro said of the two boards.

“We own the property. We need to take care of it,” Com-missioner Sheilah Kennedy said, noting that the current board has its hands full just with fair organizing.

Protests from residents about a proposed recreation district in the Methow Valley was part of what spurred the county to take a closer look at its own parks board.

She said a county-wide board could work with tourism groups to help promote local recreation opportunities.

“What we’re doing isn’t geared to killing anything over there,” Commissioner Ray Campbell said of the April 22 ballot measure. “It’s geared to give an alternative” to the Methow Valley Recreation District if voters opt not to create it.

“It isn’t just the Methow that needs that kind of help there. It’s the whole county,” Campbell said.

DeTro clarified that the Methow Valley Recreation District would operate on its own, not as a part of county government.

While the Methow Valley Recreation District would be a junior taxing district, Huston said the county Parks and Recreation Board doesn’t have to collect a tax.

The capital facilities planning process is scheduled to be complete by July, he said. The county will issue a public call soon for groups to submit projects to be considered in the plan.

“This isn’t going to happen overnight,” Kennedy said, adding that the county will work to make sure the parks board doesn’t lose a grant it recently received to build new bathrooms on the fairgrounds, 175 Rodeo Trail Road.

Former board member Maurice Goodall asked what will happen to the secretary and maintenance employee who work at the fairgrounds, and Huston said they aren’t sure yet under which board the employees will work.

White also urged the county to hire a fairgrounds manager.

“Don’t drop the ball on getting a manager because boy, we are behind,” he said.

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