In an effort to boost their chances at gaining county landfill grant funding, White Salmon and Bingen will submit the same two priorities for consideration by the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority (EDA) in 2003.
On Dec. 17, the two city councils met in an unusual joint session at Bingen City Hall to address issues that affect both communities.
At the meeting, both city councils voted unanimously to jointly ask for funding to pay for two projects: Project Open Door, the after-school program at Henkle Middle School ($25,000); and planning for an animal control program ($25,000).
"These two projects can best be handled as joint projects," explained Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel.
"We're working together for the good of the greater community, and I think the EDA will appreciate that approach," added White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen.
The EDA board sifts through project ideas from communities around the county to determine which ones deserve grants from the landfill fund. The fund has provided an average of $350,000 each year to support community enhancement or economic development projects. The Klickitat County Commissioners make the final decision as to which projects get funded.
Mayor Holen said both issues were vital to White Salmon and Bingen.
"Animal control has been an issue since ancient history in these two cities," Holen explained. "And Project Open Door is a very valuable program. It keeps kids occupied with something constructive to do."
To demonstrate how animal control has been a concern, Holen said he recently looked at a 1951 article from The Enterprise that proposed a consolidated effort of the two cities to deal with stray dogs and other mutual concerns.
"Because there is no dog pound, the officers of the law have no alternative than to shoot the luckless pup," read an excerpt from an article in the June 1, 1951 issue. "Knowing that this is a rough manner in dealing with man's best friend, there appeared to be no other solution unless we wanted to invest some money."
Bingen council member Randy Anderson said he was optimistic EDA grant support could be a major step in handling an ongoing issue.
"This has been a problem for both communities for a long time. Maybe this gives us a way to solve it," said Anderson.
However, Prigel questioned whether the money could be spent in 2003, which is one of the criteria to obtain the grant.
"To be quite honest, I'm not exactly sure what we'd do with the money, and I have long-term funding concerns about maintenance and operations," Prigel said.
Bingen council member Jeanette Fentie said she had been in contact with animal control staff from Hood River County, and she expressed hope that a mutually-beneficial agreement could be reached.
"Hood River is interested in talking to both cities to see if there is a creative solution," Fentie explained. "If a kid gets bitten, it will be a big liability for the city."
She added that Hood River County recently issued a request for proposals to determine costs for an animal impound center that could be added to an existing Hood River veterinarian's facilities.
Fentie pointed out that Hood River County already has a full-time animal control officer, but she has to spend about half her time doing paperwork.
"If we helped pay for a staff person to handle the paperwork, that would free her to run across the river," Fentie explained.
Holen pointed out that if the EDA helped pay for a shelter in Hood River, "our community would get animal control officer part-time, and a place to put dogs."
"This would work to solve an 80-year-old problem," added Bingen council member Laura Mann.
White Salmon council member Tim Stone said he thought both projects were essential.
"We all like Project Open Door, but I don't want to let animal control slip any more. I'd suggest reserving some funding to show support for animal control as well," Stone said.
"We could ask for $25,000 toward an initial contract with Hood River County," agreed Jan Brending, Bingen's clerk/treasurer. "It's a joint effort to address a joint problem we both have. If we get the funds, it would force the cities to address the situation."