After mulling over its options about what to do with the Park Center for months, the board of directors of White Salmon Valley School District No. 405 made a decision last Wednesday, March 8, during a brief special meeting at the school district office.
In a unanimous decision, board members Bill Clack, Tom Stevenson and Kristi Hurn approved a resolution that declared the 20,000-square-foot building "surplus to the District's existing real property and facility needs..."
Moreover, the board's resolution found it to be "in the District's interests" to pursue a lease or rental agreement "in the amount of $10,000 or more..."
Supt. Dale Palmer was directed by the resolution to have "a notice of intent to lease or rent such property" published in The Enterprise to meet the school district's legal obligation "to provide 45 days notice of its intent to lease any surplus real property..."
Board passage of the resolution followed by two days the action taken by the City of White Salmon. On March 6, the city council met in special session and deeded the Park Center building back to the school district. (The city will continue to take care of the Rheingarten Park grounds, which along with the tennis courts, will remain open to public use.)
That move by the city officially severed its nearly 30-year maintenance and operations relationship with the Park Center building, which starting on Nov. 9, 1976 had been used by White Salmon "for municipal purposes."
It also shifted management responsibility for the facility to the school district, meaning the district must budget for the expense of operating the building--estimated at $65,000 a year.
Along with that, the school district (which has its administrative office in the building) assumes leases held by the Park Center's remaining tenants: the Underwood Conservation District and the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department. Both tenants occupy space on the Park Center's bottom floor, which fronts Lincoln Street.
Because of the cost of maintaining the building, the school district hopes to maximize the value of the Park Center's remaining square footage by leasing the entire top floor and a portion of the bottom.
The drawback to the school district's plan is that the community will lose its only public auditorium for the performing arts and community events such as SpringFest.
Palmer, however, has investigated alternate sites with stages--notably the Mountain View Grange Hall, the Underwood Community Center and the Bingen School Inn.
He told the school board during the special meeting the Bingen School Inn--a building the district surplused and sold in June 1986 for $117,010--holds the most promise and that the owner is willing to work out an agreement with the district.
A potential tenant for vacant space in the Park Center building is The Insitu Group.
Insitu, a major tenant of the Port of Klickitat's Bingen Point business park, recently moved its corporate offices into a building on Jewett Boulevard.
But the 14-year-old company, which "specializes in the innovative design, development and production of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and tools for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaisance," is growing and needs more space to meet its current and future requirements.
Last October, Insitu was ranked 10th in the Technology Fast 50 within the state of Washington and 169th in the national Tech Fast 500. The rankings, sponsored by Deloitte, Perkins Coie, and Morgan Stanley, were based on percentage growth rate for the previous five years.
Palmer said he has "had a number of conversations" with Insitu leaders over the past few months about the availability of the Park Center but, now that the building is going on the market, others might come forward with proposals.
"We will look carefully at every offer that comes in and pick the one that best serves the school district's interests," Palmer said.
As a show of its own interest, Insitu had 12 different contractors in the Park Center last Wednesday, figuring out what it would take to remodel the interior spaces to suit the company's needs.
Palmer said the school board hopes to make a decision in May.