By SVERRE BAKKE
A community open house at the White Salmon Valey School District's new transportation and maintenance center is scheduled for Dec. 17, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Monday night's formal dedication of the facility, however, was just for representatives of the Mid-Columbia Pupil Transportation Cooperative, for which the center will serve as a maintenance and safety inspection hub.
All told, 34 people -- representing the White Salmon, Glenwood, Klickitat and Trout Lake school districts and Educational Service District 112 -- attended the low-key event.
Dignitaries included State Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside), who served as keynote speaker, and Dr. Richard Carter, the former White Salmon superintendent who spearheaded the formation of the transportation co-op that made $1 million in state matching construction money available to the school district.
The building was designed by architect Arden Newbrook of Ridgefield and constructed by Mathews Steel Buildings of Moses Lake between June 2001 and September 2002.
White Salmon district transportation and maintenance personnel moved in in late August and began operations on the first day of the school year, Sept. 3.
Noted Carter: "This building represents the dreams of a lot of people in this community."
A bond levy passed by district voters -- by one vote -- in November 1998 provided the financing for construction of the center. But construction was delayed while Carter pursued formation of the transportation co-op, locally and at the state level.
Carter credited district maintenance supervisor Sharon Schalk for discovering the option of forming a transportation cooperative in order to obtain state construction funding.
"We talked about this for years, sitting around Sharon's office in that dark, leaky quonset hut over coffee, thinking of ways we could convince the community (to support the bond)," recalled Carter, who served as White Salmon superintendent for 10 years before taking the same position in Walla Walla in 2000.
Carter and his counterparts in Glenwood, Klickitat and Trout Lake "found the idea of a co-op made sense."
That unity led to a cooperative agreement and state Board of Education approval of the arrangement and allocation of matching funds.
"We in the Legislature like to see these kinds of cooperative efforts," said Honeyford, who called yellow school buses "the main symbol of our K-12 educational system."
According to the senator, 3.5 percent of the state K-12 budget goes to student transportation.
"That budget has to be protected because that's what gets our children to school safely," he noted, "...and this center ensures you will have well-maintained and safe buses."