With the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority Board (EDA) meeting in Goldendale on the evening of March 28, the city councils of Bingen and White Salmon decided on their top priorities last week.
Both councils followed the formula of going with projects that serve to enhance the health and/or safety of community residents. Traditionally, these have been most likely to gain funding from the EDA, which distributes money generated from the county's landfill account.
A portion of the revenues collected from trash deposited in Roosevelt is distributed across Klickitat County as a way for the county to "share the wealth." This year, $500,000 is being set aside for community projects.
For Bingen, the plan that floated to the top of the list was financial aid for the fire hall construction project, while White Salmon chose to throw its weight behind getting CAT scan equipment for Skyline Hospital.
In Bingen, members of the City Council regarded building the fire station as a legitimate public safety need.
"A new fire hall is certainly in the community's best interest. But it is also in the area's best interest," Mayor Brian Prigel noted.
Bingen is requesting $30,000 of an estimated total of $91,000 to help defray the cost of fire hall design and construction oversight. Construction of the new fire station is scheduled to get started early in 2002.
The city's second priority was replacing a section of six-inch water pipeline along State Route 14 with a 10-inch pipeline.
"The six-inch line creates a bottleneck for water being delivered to the Port of Klickitat," Prigel pointed out. "The waterline is basically a firefighting issue."
Bingen will request $45,000 of the estimated total cost of the project, which is $97,000.
Not making the list for Bingen were a request for $45,000 for new sidewalks along Humboldt Street, from Walnut to Cherry street; and a proposal from the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce for $10,000 in funding to place a mural on the Struck Building, using historic fruit labels in the design.
In the end, however, a pretty mural and better sidewalks appeared to be a luxury that could not be justified given the choices and the financial limits.
Prigel pointed out there is only half a million dollars to go around for all the communities in the county.
"Health and safety generally rank higher," Prigel told the council members.
"The fire hall should be number one, because we're doing it; it's happening now," said City Council member Dixie Thiesies. "And I think between the water line and the sidewalk, it's kind of a tie. Although I appreciate the Chamber's mural plan and I'd love to see it happen, these other things are more important."
Thiesies added that she hoped the EDA would factor in the public relations value in helping Bingen build the new fire hall.
"It would be beneficial for EDA to be a part of this. It's a big thing for this community," Thiesies explained. "And the waterline upgrade will provide better service to the Port, which is in the county."
"The fire hall is my first pick, too," said council member Larry Murphy. "It's in the works, with the plan being done and getting ready to go."
The vote to prioritize the fire hall first and the waterline second was approved, 5-0.
After the council voted, Prigel said he believed the council had acted wisely.
"I think these projects serve our current needs and long-term needs better than some of the other projects," Prigel said. "I think the council was right on in its priorities."
Prigel added that he was optimistic the county will look favorably on its proposals.
"I think we have a good chance of receiving some assistance," he said. "We're asking for $75,000 out of the $500,000. That's a fair share, and a pretty sizable percentage of the total available. But the reality is, it's likely we won't get everything."
White Salmon's main priority, meanwhile, could provide a direct medical benefit to residents of the community: Heading the White Salmon list was a request for $80,000 to help Skyline Hospital obtain CAT scan equipment.
The $80,000 is the sum required for the hospital to pay for the first year's lease of the advanced equipment.
"Once the availability of the CAT scan is known, it becomes self-supporting and makes money for the hospital," explained White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen. "The EDA may look very favorably on this project. There is no question the hospital needs this."
Council members were faced with choosing between the CAT scan equipment and asking the county for $170,000 for help with a proposed new five-acre city park along Jewett Creek near Spring Street. The park money would go toward a road into the city-owned parcel, parking, and trail improvements.
Holen conceded the council did not expect full funding for the park plan, but they did hope for "a fair share of the pie, whatever is equitable."
The council voted unanimously to support both proposals, then had to prioritize them.
"Having the CAT scan available at Skyline brings better service here to Washington, instead of sending it across to Hood River," said council member Susan Benedict. "If we have to prioritize, the CAT scan would have to be the top priority."
Holen agreed prioritizing two attractive proposals was a difficult process.
"We don't know how many projects or what the total expenditures will be," he said. "Regrettably, it's comparing apples and oranges and it is difficult to do this sort of thing. There's never enough money."
The vote to make the CAT scan equipment the top priority was 2-1, with Benedict and Jeff Bruce in favor and Francis Gaddis opposed.
"My sense is both will be funded, but not to the degree requested," Holen noted.
After the council meeting, Holen praised the council's decision.
"I think you saw the City Council struggle in terms of how to prioritize the requests," Holen said. "I think the council members are to be commended in doing what was needed rather than what was wanted. Everybody realizes how important the viability of the hospital is in terms of payroll and quality of life. There is a direct link between having a hospital and chances for economic growth."
Skyline Hospital Administrator Mike Madden was gratified to hear the White Salmon City Council supported its goal of obtaining CAT scan equipment.
"We're pleased the City Council was supportive of us in this request. We're tickled to have that support in the community," Madden said.
Madden pointed out that Skyline has never had a CAT scan before. If the county approves funding, Skyline will get new equipment from the manufacturer under a five-year lease arrangement. The hospital will own it outright at the end of the lease period.
"It's the latest technology," Madden added. "It even allows us to do bone-density studies, and will meet everything we need. I think it would be a boon to everyone in the district. Hopefully after the first year the revenue it generates will be enough to pay for it."