Depot Street -- a bumpy, potholed, unpaved lane behind Bingen's downtown business district and along the railroad tracks -- will have to wait at least a few more months to be paved.
Bingen officials were expecting to have the work start on Sept. 13, but the Klickitat County Road Department informed Mayor Brian Prigel late last week that it needs to complete other priorities first.
"If the county can't do it, we're stuck until spring," Prigel said.
Early in 2004, Bingen was awarded a Klickitat County Economic Development Authority grant of $25,000 to pay for Depot Street reconstruction. Repaving of Depot Street was the City Council's top priority request for its share of the annual landfill fund distribution.
The area scheduled for improvements is between Ash Street and Oak Street, a one-block area behind Mansfield's and the Bingen Superette. The road was to be widened to 24-feet, paved, and later striped as a fire lane.
The anticipated cost of the project is $24,500.
"It's a good plan, given the money we have," said Mayor Prigel at the Sept. 7 meeting of the Bingen City Council. "We'll finally have improvements back there."
"Now we'll have people speeding through there," joked council member Laura Mann.
The next day, the city was in the process of informing local businesses about the upcoming paving project when the county delivered the bad news.
"The county's Public Works Department informed us they couldn't do the job for us," Prigel said on Friday. "They told us a month ago they could squeeze our work in, but we found out Wednesday they're not going to do it. I can understand it's a lower priority and there are other projects the county is getting behind on, but we'd have liked to have known this earlier."
Prigel said he still wasn't sure why the county changed its decision to do the work.
"We were taken aback and surprised by this move. It's kind of disappointing, and we haven't gotten a really good explanation," Prigel said. "We started scheduling with the county at least a month or six weeks ago. Perhaps we could have done a better job of doing this project earlier in the year, but we did have a lot going on, and they had given us the indication they could certainly do it this fall."
Klickitat County Commissioner Don Struck said the work would have to be put off until spring.
"We're down to the wire on higher priority county projects, and this request came in a little late. There is already more work than we can get done," Struck said. "It's a bad deal for Bingen and I feel terrible about it, but it was the board's [Klickitat County Commissioners] decision based on the fact we have other priority projects to finish, and they're not sufficiently far along to get everything done before the rains come."
Key projects the county's crews are working to finish include widening and paving work on Canyon Road between Lyle and Appleton, and paving on Old Mountain Road in the Goldendale area.
"Once it starts raining we can't pave," Struck added. "There are lots of odds and ends we're trying to get finished."
He added that planned paving on Snowden Road also won't be started until next year.
Generally, the county expects EDA grants to be spent in the calendar year it is awarded, and Prigel said he was afraid the city might lose the money. However, Struck promised he would bring the issue to the next EDA meeting and ask to carry the paving fund over to next spring.
Prigel said it had been at least 15 years since any major work has been done on Depot Street, and repaving has long been regarded by city planners as a needed improvement.
"It was identified as part of our Community Action Plan and downtown improvement plan," Prigel noted. He added that long-term goals for Depot Street included sidewalks and landscaping.
Prigel said working through the county was good for the city of Bingen.
"It saves us money, and they're easy to work with," he said. "If we have to bid it out, our estimated cost would be as much as 50 percent more than through the county."
Struck said he would make sure that the Depot Road work is the Road Department's priority for next year.
"Carry-over projects get early season priority," Struck said. "As soon as the weather breaks early in the year, we'll get it done."