It was a good week for Klickitat County. In what has become a highly-anticipated annual event, the county's Economic Development Authority distributes a specified sum of money from the county's regional landfill in Roosevelt.
This year, $500,000 was available, and the resulting grants provided at least partial funding for 27 projects in communities stretching from Alderdale to Wishram.
A White Salmon-based project came away with the distinction of winning the biggest grant for any single project: The EDA board approved giving $37,284 to pay for building improvements for the White Salmon Youth Center.
"I am so thrilled and appreciate it so much, and the kids appreciate it too. I'm really shocked we got all we asked for," said Linda Lamoreaux Schneider, associate director of the Klickitat-Skamania Development Council, which oversees the Youth Center.
The building is sagging, and Lamoreaux believes it has its original windows and doors and flooring as well.
"I'm sure the moss is the only thing keeping the roof from leaking," she said. "The first priority is the roof, and we'll go from there. Our December gas bill for heating was over $300. Replacing the windows, doors, and insulation will really help with the budget. Improving the energy efficiency will make it easier."
Schneider said work will be started over the summer.
The city of White Salmon also did well, although the City Council's top priority -- support for Skyline Hospital's CT scan equipment -- was dropped from consideration. That decision stemmed from a late decision that hospital districts ought to be funded separately from the municipalities.
Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel, who is a member of the EDA board, explained that the hospital projects were taken off the table for a reason.
"The hospital districts, while very deserving, we decided this is probably not the proper focus for them to receive grants," he said. "I believe everyone feels it's just not appropriate to have those types of projects competing with community projects. It's tough to compare parks with ambulances."
Prigel said the landfill fund contained money for large-scale projects, and the hospital projects might do better in that context.
"Certainly, there is more landfill money available than that one-half million," he said. "Major developments take a different process to determine the need and appropriateness of funding."
Prigel added that a loan program might be one way to move Skyline Hospital's CT scan proposal forward.
"The county could provide a loan from the landfill money. At this point, that's one item for discussion," Prigel said.
The city of White Salmon got $31,000 to go toward work on a planned new city park, referred to as the Jewett Springs Nature Park.
"Frankly we'll use that money to hire a grant writer," said Mayor Roger Holen. "We need someone to manage communication between the entities that might want to help with this project."
Holen said he was pleased the EDA board members provided the full amount the city requested to get started with its proposal.
"In terms of what's equitable and in terms of what other communities got, it's really very fair," Holen said. "But I'm not sure Mike Madden is going to be thrilled."
Madden, administrator of Skyline Hospital, noted that the hospital's request -- $80,000 to pay for the first year's lease for CT-scan -- was not necessarily dead.
"The only word I got was that they wanted to handle the hospitals separately from everybody else," Madden said. "I haven't been told anything officially yet. But the county wants to look at hospitals because they are more regional projects."
Skyline was not the only hospital affected: Klickitat Valley Hospital in Goldendale had asked for approximately $30,000 to upgrade its existing CT scan equipment.
The EDA board is scheduled to address the hospitals' requests at its next regular meeting in May.
"They might be wanting to talk to us about a loan, which doesn't do us any good," Madden said. "If we have a loan on one side and a lease on the other, we'd be paying payments and never get out of it. We'd have to consider not taking the money if that's the case. We'll just have to wait until next month to see what happens."
In Bingen itself, the city was provided with the full level of funding requested by the City Council for its top priority item: A $30,000 grant for design and construction oversight work on its new fire station project. Construction is expected to begin next spring.
The $30,000 represents roughly one-third of the total cost for the design portion of the overall project.
Mayor Prigel said he was very happy with the results.
"I think it went quite well, and this area of the county did well," Prigel pointed out. "We asked for $30,000, and that's what we got. You can always speculate that perhaps we should have asked for additional funding, but when you start asking for more, you appear greedy and the board might start questioning it."
Prigel conceded that it was unfortunate the city's second priority was not funded. That project would have installed a bigger water pipeline to eliminate a bottleneck in the pipes serving the Port of Klickitat/Bingen Point area.
But he added that he was neither surprised nor disappointed in the end results.
"That's a project that is simply an upgrade. It is currently functioning, but the new pipe could have improved fire flow," Prigel said. "The city will consider what to do with that project since we won't be getting assistance. We'll have to review it, and run it past the council."
The pipeline project is expected to cost $90,000. Bingen had asked for $45,0000.
Prigel said he was glad the White Salmon Youth Center got what it needed, as the facility serves many Bingen kids as well.
"We were hoping it would receive funding," he said. "It had high support from everyone and is filling an important role and doing a good job of it. Basically, in terms of this end of the county, we did really well."
Prigel noted that there were some kinks in the system that need to be addressed.
"Things got so loosey-goosey. I think it went very smoothly considering there were misunderstandings going into it about the process relating to the Chamber of Commerce and the Youth Center proposing projects without sponsorship of the cities, and having the hospital districts proposing items," he said. "Between now and next fall, the EDA needs to develop guidelines and provide a clear indication of who is eligible."
The Snowden Community Council was one entity that made requests for funding this year after not being involved in the process in previous years.
Snowden requested approximately $20,000 total for two projects related to the fire department. The top request was for $11,241 to equip 25 firefighters with suits and equipment. Previously, the area -- served by the Cherry Lane Fire Department -- only had enough for four or five to be completely suited up.
The other request was to finish construction of the meeting room at the Cherry Lane fire hall.
"We got it all, surprisingly," said Chris Connolly, president of the Snowden Community Council. "I'm very pleasantly surprised we got it."
Connolly pointed out that it was the second lowest request package of all the communities.
Connolly said the council asked members of the Cherry Lane Fire Department if there was anything they wanted the council to request from the county's landfill fund.
"They were quick to come up with a list, and we felt they were good projects to sponsor," Connolly added. "It's nice to have money going right into the community for basic needs. Especially in light of this being a drought year. The fire departments will need more equipment and more volunteers."