It's a disappointing trend. For the third year in a row, the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority (EDA) will set aside less landfill account money for the various economic development/community enhancement projects in towns and communities around the county.
The downward trend in funding comes despite the fact that the county inked a contract with Allied Waste/Rabanco in April 2002 that provides a guaranteed minimum of $6.2 million annually to the county as payment for use of the landfill facility in Roosevelt. The landfill receives as much as 5 million tons of trash a year, and the $6.2 million minimum is guaranteed at least through 2007.
Landfill funding to communities has been falling sharply: In 2001, the EDA set aside $500,000 for communities around the county. In 2002, the figure was $350,000. In 2003, it was $300,000. Now, for 2004, only $250,000 is proposed to be made available.
The priorities set by communities from Lyle to Trout Lake and from White Salmon to Dallesport are certainly not frivolous. Here's a glimpse at some of the local projects the county has contributed cash for in recent years:
White Salmon: 2003: $25,000 for Project Open Door, an after-school program for students at Henkle Middle School (joint request with city of Bingen). 2002: $26,800 for new landscaping and irrigation for the downtown business district.
Bingen: 2002: $25,000 for playground equipment for Daubenspeck Park.
Lyle: 2003: $18,219 for equipment for the fire district and remodeling of the fire station. 2002: $30,000 for upgrading of the fire station.
Trout Lake: 2003: $19,900 for a community learning center. 2002: $25,600 for firefighting equipment.
Husum/BZ Corner: 2003: $8,950 for fire district equipment. 2002: $20,000 for a new fire truck.
Dallesport: 2003: $37,290 for equipment for the fire district. 2002: $16,050 for a new fire truck and $18,859 for playground equipment.
None of these community requests were unwise. On the contrary. That firefighting equipment may end up saving someone's property -- or someone's life, and the other grants have helped upgrade the quality of life of the county. That is vital in a healthy society. Even attractive landscaping, for example, can help boost a community's economic fortunes by encouraging more tourism. Ditto for the playground equipment, which has the added benefit of providing our kids with a safe place to play.
One of the greatest aspects of the EDA funding process is that local citizens get to directly determine how they want to spend a portion of the county's revenue.
In that light, the proposed funding for 2004 is frankly insufficient. The county ought to guarantee EDA funding of at least $500,000 annually, and provide more when economic conditions allow. Citizens around the county deserve a direct say in how more than just $250,000 of that $6.2 million, especially given the dire economic straits of many of our communities.
All spending priorities do not need to be decided by county officials in Goldendale.