There was good news all around Klickitat County last week. On Feb. 9, the county's Economic Development Authority (EDA) met in Goldendale to decide how to distribute $350,000 for community enhancement projects. The money comes from revenues the county takes in from the regional landfill in Roosevelt in eastern Klickitat County.
"It's the most fun day of the year," commented County Commissioner Don Struck. "It was really a pretty easy process. We jockeyed things around just a little bit. Everything fit pretty well."
During the meeting, the EDA board members agreed to fund virtually all of the top priorities of the communities.
That means Bingen and White Salmon will each get a fistful of money. Bingen will bring home $36,389 to pay for a new wall for the Gorge Heritage Museum building, and White Salmon will get $26,960 for an air compressor to fill bottles for the self-contained breathing units used by White Salmon's firefighters.
"All the first priorities were funded, with the exception of Klickitat," said Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel, who serves on the EDA board.
In one alteration, the board moved to swap the first and second choices of Klickitat. The top priority request of the Klickitat Community Council was siding for the existing fire hall in Klickitat, but EDA members decided the second priority was actually more worthy: building a new fire station in Wahkiacus that will house two fire trucks and an emergency aid vehicle.
Klickitat will be provided with $25,000 for construction of the new fire hall at Wahkiacus, which is within the Klickitat planning area.
"It's the most worthwhile project on the entire list," said Commissioner Struck.
Mayor Prigel said he was pleased with the grant for Bingen, as the museum's north wall has been crumbling and replacing it is essential to maintaining the building's structural integrity.
"That $36,000 will go a long way," Prigel said. "It should get the basic structure done."
A second goal for the museum building, however -- making the building accessible to meet requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act -- may not be achievable with the designated money.
"It probably won't pay for the ADA modifications," Prigel explained. "We won't really know until we have the full design and start digging and find out what it's going to take to accomplish. We'll get the wall done and some of the concrete work in preparation for ADA access."
Prigel added that the building work was expected to begin in early spring.
White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen said the city will use its share of the EDA money to obtain an air compressor to fill oxygen bottles and the self-contained breathing equipment used by the White Salmon Fire Department's firefighters.
"What we had to do in the past was go over to Hood River to get the bottles filled, which takes time and is more costly, and it's a poor way to do things," Holen said.
White Salmon Fire Chief Bill Hunsaker said he was ecstatic to be able to get the new equipment, and appreciative of the county's EDA grant program.
"This makes us a lot more self-reliant," Hunsaker said. "This will make it so we can actually use our air for training and have air available on a constant flow. It's a great addition to our Fire Department, and something I've been working for over many years."
Hunsaker pointed out that having to transport air bottles to Hood River for filling not only took valuable manpower time, but was also a safety risk.
"We've been carrying large air cylinders, which could become projectiles if the valve breaks off in an accident," Hunsaker explained.
Chief Hunsaker added that White Salmon plans to fill Bingen's air tanks as well.
"We'll definitely be supplying air for the Bingen Fire Department," he said. "We'll definitely help them out."
Elsewhere in the western part of Klickitat County, EDA funds will go for the following projects:
Trout Lake is slated to receive $10,500 in landfill dollars to improve its community center, including upgrading the stage lighting and building storage facilities for sports and theater equipment.
In Snowden, the EDA agreed to provide $14,365 to finish outfitting the Fire Department's new fire truck, and to purchase pagers.
Lyle is getting $10,000 for a skate deck and other park improvements and activities for young people.
In the Husum/BZ Corner area, the county will provide $32,495 to upgrade the fire hall in Husum to meet code for public use.
In Glenwood, $27,000 is to be provided for insulation, heating, and plumbing improvements for the fire station.
Commissioner Struck said there were many excellent suggestions for projects.
"I'm most excited about turning part of the Husum fire hall into a meeting place for the [Husum-BZ] Community Council," Struck said. "I think it's really going to help that facility. And both Snowden projects were fully funded. They had two small projects, and we combined them and funded them entirely."
Struck added that he expected final approval for all the projects sometime in March.
"We like to have the funding out by the end of March," he said. "I don't anticipate any glitches."
The annual distribution of landfill funds for community enhancements started in 1997.