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Renovations at San Juan County Fair inconsistent with Master Plan

The current San Juan County administration is ignoring public input as construction is underway at San Juan County Fairgrounds. A project costing approximately $1.4 million will add restrooms  and an office for the county's Emergency Operation Center to the Marie Boe building.

Marie Boe building in the background during the 2015 Chicken Race.

The addition of the restrooms and office preclude adding a commercial kitchen later, something that was been in the 2012 Master Plan and the 2019 Master Plan Update. The updated plan was put together by staff, Fair Board, and members of the public,  estimated the cost would be $750,000 to $1.1 million.

"How close is this to the plan that the community worked on," Council Chair Cindy Wolf asked. "Because I want to make sure people feel like money is being spent to do the thing that the public asked to be done." She noted wondered if a grant was possible. "There does seem to be a quite a bit of USDA money flying around right now." 

Parks and Fair Manager Brandon Cadwell said, "I think when I last looked at the number and applied for inflation, we're looking at a $2 million kitchen. And knowing full well that was an estimate, and if recent estimates tell me anything, probably double it."  

Instead of a commercial kitchen, Cadwell prefers his idea of eventually adding a catering kitchen onto the Main Building. There was no mention of that in the community-driven updated plan.

The 2019 Update to the Master Plan includes the following reasoning for having a kitchen at the Marie Boe building.

"The decision to locate the commercial kitchen at the Marie Boe facility as an addition to the building is based on its central location, size, and the desire to expand uses of the facility. Marie Boe’s location also makes it more appealing as a rental venue due to kitchen users being able to easily access the Main Building for larger events as well as the food court during the Fair.

"The central location also provides proximity to a transformer and existing water lines, which will reduce costs for any new or upgraded utilities (electrical upgrades and costs based on location are covered in the Project 10 section of this chapter).

"The existing Marie Boe building is also beneficial as it is the appropriate size for smaller food related events or classes that also need non-kitchen space. A standalone location would require investing in a larger structure with non-kitchen space or having customers travel between facilities.

"By adding the kitchen to Marie Boe, the existing space can be utilized for a far wider range of uses and attract more rental customers."

The benefits according to the Updated Plan include: 

A commercial kitchen would benefit the local economy, expand rental uses, support fair vendors, and improve the Fairgrounds’ ability to aid the community during emergencies

By building the kitchen as an addition to Marie Boe, this proposal utilizes the central location and size of the current facility to attract more rentals

There is strong community backing (91%) for a commercial kitchen project, which was first proposed in the 2012 Master Plan

A commercial kitchen would play an important role during emergencies: 

"The Fairgrounds’ role in emergency situations further justifies the construction of a commercial kitchen. The Fairgrounds is currently designated to serve as a disaster relief site for the Red Cross; the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the Department of Emergency Management (DEM); and the congregation site for active shooter situations at Friday Harbor Elementary school, among other emergency functions for the community.

"The kitchen will support the Fairgrounds’ in these functions by allowing for extended congregation or relief efforts without the need for external food preparation. This could be vital to the community during a natural disaster or other

Also included in the bid for the construction, was renovating the Jim Crook building. After the bid came in, that part of the project was put off until 2024. 

The remodel of the Marie Boe building is in conjunction with the Department of Emergency management remodel, and the WSDA grant for restroom additions on the building. Replacement of the roof, covered walk way, concrete plaza, etc. to bring the project together cohesively and not piece-meal of separate projects.

The justification for the project was that it will replace the roof at the end of its life, improve ADA accessibility, and provide a better facility as a rental to the public and support the departments budget.

The council approved $900,000 and $140,000 to fund the project at its February 28, 2023. A budget amendment will be done. 


  • Helen Machin-Smith Tuesday, 21 March 2023 23:31 Comment Link Report

    Island Stage Left is hoping it will still be able to perform there at a reasonable rent.

  • Jan Monday, 20 March 2023 17:32 Comment Link Report

    The Marie Boe building is less than 20 years old. New roof? So many other structures need maintenance so much worse.

    The commercial kitchen has been part of the Master Plan discussion as long as I can remember and would serve the community ?

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