County to sell off Orcas Rec equipment: Orcas Park and Rec district plans to borrow funds from Port of Orcas to purchase county-owned equipment

CORRECTION: Auditor Milene Henley has notified the Sounder that ONLY the sports equipment within the Orcas Rec Program inventory is being offered for sale, as opposed to the entire Orcas Rec Program inventory posted earlier.

The county-owned sports equipment once used in Orcas Rec program’ s programming is now being offered for sale, and the county is asking $1,000 for the whole kit and caboodle.

Orcas Island Park and Rec district board member Martha Farish called the timing “unfortunate,” saying, “ at the time of the county’s announcement of sale, we are unable to buy, given we have at this moment no money! It also is tough to hear that Orcas, who raised so much of the money that went into the old Orcas Rec through donations, is now being asked to buy back equipment we may have purchased on behalf of Orcas Rec in the first place.”

County auditor Milene Henley, who is currently the county’s Surplus Property Agent, said that county-owned property that is not deemed “worthless” may not legally be given away, or it is considered a gift of public funds. Property valued at less than $2,500 can be sold directly by the county’s surplus property agent.

“I opted to offer the sports equipment by direct sale to other jurisdictions in the county that could use it,” said Henley.

She added that she has granted the rec district deferred payment of the roughly $14,000 it currently owes to the elections department, which is also under Henley’s jurisdiction. Because the $1,000 payment for the equipment will go to the county parks department, “I think it is appropriate for them to pay for the equipment now,” she said.

“County Parks’ Orcas Island Recreation Program did, indeed, receive substantial donations from Orcas residents during the years that it operated,” said Henley. “In none of those years, however, did donations and program income cover the entire cost of the program. The county’s general fund, or other parks revenue, always contributed to the operation of the program. Furthermore, no donations to the program were specifically ‘earmarked’ for specific uses. Therefore, it is hard to say that the equipment was purchased by Orcas donations. It was purchased with revenue to the program, which included some donations from residents, some program income, and some contributions from the county’s general fund.”

The Orcas Park and Rec District, which will receive no funding from its voter-approved levy until 2012, is considering borrowing the money to purchase back the equipment. No other district has expressed interest in the purchase.

“To replace that equipment is way more than $1,000,” said rec district commissioner Bob Eagan, who after discussion with Henley, said “her hands are basically tied. Trying to battle the county … seems like we’re fighting a losing battle.”

“All the soccer equipment and other miscellaneous stuff that was Orcas Rec’s was actually SJC parks’ because we worked under their umbrella,” he said.

On May 17 the rec district commissioners met with the Port of Orcas and asked to borrow money from them in order to make the purchase, and possibly to fund operations through 2011.

The airport board passed a motion agreeing to loan the rec district $1,000; Eagan said the rate would be three percent.

The port may lend the rec district a great deal more than that, but manager Bea von Tobel will be analyzing the port’s finances and engaging in discussion with prosecuting attorney Randy Gaylord before that decision is made.

“We’re happy to do this, and it’s a good use of the reserve and invested funds,” said von Tobel. “The commissioners have asked me for a recommendation for an amount on what we could spare, and we’re discussing that.”

She said they’ll need to consider an upcoming airport improvement project when making the commitment, but said the port can spare at least $50,000 for the rec district.

“I don’t know what final numbers will be until I see our numbers at the end of month,” she said.