In a special meeting on Dec. 10, the White Salmon City Council broke a deadlock and voted 3-1 to make the Community Youth Center the city's top priority for its share of the annual landfill fund.
Although the Youth Center at 453 E. Jewett is clearly a worthy cause and young people in our community deserve a lot of support, given the other pressing needs in the community, this decision, this year, was unjustified.
Each year, the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority (EDA) makes money available for a variety of projects to benefit communities around the county. The money comes from revenue the county takes in for allowing other municipalities to use the regional landfill at Roosevelt.
The main reason why financial support for the Youth Center should not have been forthcoming this year is simple: This marks the third time in the last four years that White Salmon's EDA money has gone toward this general cause, and this year in particular, there were more critical projects under consideration.
Last year, $25,000 for the Henkle Middle School Project Open Door after-school program was the city's top EDA priority (the money was provided). Although Project Open Door is not directly linked to the Community Youth Center, it nevertheless is geared toward the same age group, and Project Open Door proponents volunteer at the Youth Center. And in 2001, the city's number one EDA request was for over $37,000 to re-roof, insulate, and repair the Youth Center building. The EDA paid for that project as well.
Both of those were important projects and legitimate high priorities that deserved funding. Yet by directing another $21,500 toward the Youth Center in 2004, the council has tilted too often in the same direction. That leaves other needs unfunded.
Further, the Youth Center proposal is vague, to put it mildly. There is a real possibility the EDA board will not approve this request, because nothing tangible is set out in the project. It simply calls for the funds to be used "to improve, enhance the programs, and keep the Youth Center open year round." Exactly how this money will be spent is still unclear.
Last year, the EDA rejected a joint request from Bingen and White Salmon to fund an animal control facility because the proposal was not regarded as specific enough. This proposal is even more nebulous.
During last week's special meeting, council members Penny Morris and Susan Gookin pushed for funding for a new four-wheel drive police car (approximately $28,000) to be ranked as the city's top priority, while councilors Susan Benedict and Tim Stone wanted $21,500 to support the Youth Center.
In the end, to break the 2-2 tie, Morris agreed to make the Youth Center funding top choice for White Salmon for 2004. However, Morris said she was doing so only with the stipulation that the Youth Center not be allowed to come back for additional funding for 2005.
Citizens of White Salmon deserve to see concrete results from its share of the landfill fund. Certainly, purchase of a new four-wheel-drive police car would fit that mold, and the new rig is badly needed: Currently, the only 4WD vehicle in the Police Department's fleet was built in 1990.
Public safety benefits all citizens, including young people. The view here is, this was a year when that new police car, help in paying for a new tanker truck for the Fire Department (the White Salmon Fire Department has a woefully-deficient 1966-era water tanker with a 750-gallon capacity), or finally getting an animal shelter built all made more sense than the dubious proposal the council ended up approving.