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Firemen's breathing devices top Bingen 2007 EDA wish list

Council didn't hesitate with priority

There was little hesitation from the Bingen City Council when it came to deciding what to do with the city's share of the landfill fund for next year.

Members of the council voted 3-1 to ask the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority for $35,970 for six self-contained breathing apparatus' for its firefighters.

The council discussed several different ideas for ways to use the annual grant funding from the county, which sets aside some of the revenue it brings in from the regional landfill in Roosevelt to promote economic and community development around the county.

Projects Bingen's council members considered included hiring a planner to fashion a proposal for a future community center; building a picnic shelter at Daubenspeck Park; upgrading the Gorge Heritage Museum building, which is owned by the city of Bingen; and constructing a skateboard park.

Mayor Brian Prigel said the city could consider other options as well, but pointed out that the city faced a Dec. 8 deadline to choose its top EDA priority for funding in 2007.

Council member Betty Barnes said there was no reason to wait, as she believed the critical need for new equipment for Bingen's firefighters was an obvious priority.

"I make a motion to make the SCBAs the number one choice," Barnes said.

"I don't need to wait two weeks either. I feel that way as well," said councilor Laura Mann.

Mayor Prigel cautioned that most of the grants supplied by the EDA were in the $25,000 range, and the $36,000 price tag on the six SCBAs might be seen as high by the decision-makers.

However, Mann said the need for the equipment to enhance public safety should overcome that concern.

"I believe the county can step up to the plate in accordance with the city's needs," she said.

The council then voted 3-1 to support purchase of the SCBAs, with council member Tim Hearn opposed.

Hearn said he wanted to see improvements in the park, and the picnic shelters in particular.

Prigel said communities were allowed to present a second priority to the EDA board, and promised to consider that at the Dec. 5 meeting.

"We can designate a second priority at the next meeting," Prigel said.

Prigel added that if the price tag is too large, the EDA board could alter the request.

"I think we're going to ask for six units, but if money is tight, they can always cut us down to four units, for example," Prigel said. "It's not all or nothing."

Each breathing unit costs about $5,000.

Bingen Fire Chief Dave Spratt was happy to hear the council had supported the Fire Department's request. He explained that the SCBAs the department uses now are from the 1980s.

"They're pretty old," Spratt said. "They're not reliable and they don't meet standards any more. Six new ones would outfit our main truck."

Since 1996, Klickitat County has earmarked a specified amount each year -- in recent years, that has typically been around $350,000, although it has been as high as $500,000 -- to distribute within Klickitat County.

According to Mike Canon, director of Klickitat County's Economic Development Department, the county is expected to set aside $350,000 for 2007, to spread among 17 communities.

That figures out to be an average of $20,588 per community.

Leaders in each community decide on a priority, then send representatives to an EDA meeting in January. At that time, the representatives explain their proposed project and request funding from the EDA board.

In February, the board's 12 members meet and determine how to distribute the landfill funds to meet as many of the wishes of the various communities as possible.


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