After 12 years of service, Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel will soon be leaving the office. Dec. 31 will officially be his final day as mayor.
Prigel has been a strong public servant. The accomplishments he helped guide through, and the overall improvements the city has seen over the past dozen years while he has been at the helm are very impressive.
The city sure looks a lot different than when he first began serving as mayor in January 1998.
In no particular order, here are some of the ways the city has grown under Prigel's guidance: The city has a new combined fire station/City Hall building. Remember the old and cramped 1950s-era cramped building that could not even house all the Bingen Fire Department's fire trucks -- with bays too low for a modern fire truck to fit in. Look at the proud structure there now.
The highway through the downtown business district was reconstructed, and Bingen took the opportunity to enhance the area with landscaping, pedestrian benches, and new, attractive street lamps. At the same time, visually appealing, patterned crosswalks were put into place. The downtown looks great these days.
Last year, Maple Street was rebuilt as well. A sidewalk was added where there hadn't been one before, and again, street lamps and trees were added to create a much more inviting appearance.
In a safety improvement that Bingen coordinated with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, crossing gates were added where the railroad tracks crossed Maple Street. Before the gates, too often motorists would try to slip in front of oncoming trains -- a disaster waiting to happen.
The fuel pumps in the middle of Depot Street were removed, and a modern, much more efficient fueling station was built in its place. Part of the impetus for this change came as a result of the city's long-range planning, which called for the fuel pumps to be moved -- a controversial decision at the time.
One of the most significant milestones during Prigel's tenure was the consolidation of the police forces of Bingen and White Salmon. This partnership has provided greatly enhanced law enforcement coverage for the citizens of Bingen and much more stability for the local Police Department. Before this arrangement, Bingen was having a tough time keeping its police officers, and 24-7 coverage was only a dream. This agreement never would have been possible without Prigel's support.
Early in Prigel's tenure, the notorious "blue apartments" at 400 W. Steuben were purchased by the city and razed. The site -- right at the entrance to the city -- had long been a blight on Bingen, with problems such as crime, rats, mud, and decaying structures. As part of the city's long-range master plan, the land was cleared to, eventually, make way for the construction of a community center.
And although he won't be in office when the facility is opened, Daubenspeck Park is about to get its long-promised skateboard park -- a project Mayor Prigel has helped push forward over the years.
Prigel considered leaving office after his second four-year term as mayor to concentrate on his growing metal fabrication business, but, since no one else stepped up in the 2005 election cycle, he agreed to serve for another four years. For 12 long years now, he has handled his duties effectively and fairly, and created an environment that has helped the city prosper. There is really nothing else that can be asked of a mayor.
Prigel has been a dedicated and faithful servant for the city. Further, he has been accessible and open, another factor we've appreciated.
Betty Barnes, who currently serves as a member of the Bingen City Council, will take over as Bingen's new mayor beginning Jan. 1, 2010. Prigel will be a very tough act to follow, but Barnes appears to have a solid handle on the city and the needs of its citizens. We believe she too will provide solid leadership for Bingen.
We wish Prigel all the best as he transitions out of the mayor's office, and we wish Barnes the same as she transitions in.