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Cities Support Forming Parks/Recreation District

Going to voters now

It's going to be up to the voters now.

Last week, the city councils of both Bingen and White Salmon voted to approve resolutions that would include the respective cities within the boundaries of a proposed parks and recreation district.

The resolutions are formalities, as the ultimate decision on whether a particular area is included in a parks and recreation district will be made by a vote of local residents. That vote is being targeted for the November 2010 general election.

During the Bingen City Council;'s Dec. 15 meeting, council members discussed the issue before taking a vote.

Among the concerns raised: What would the overall boundaries of the district be; if Bingen later decided to leave the district, would that be possible; can a performing arts center legally be in a parks and recreation district; and how much in taxes might it cost local residents?

Most of those questions are yet to be resolved.

"Money is money and times are tough," acknowledged parks and recreation district support Dana Scheffler, who participated in the presentation before the Bingen council. "Even if it's only $10 a year, that may turn people off in the voting booth."

Scheffler added that the genesis of the effort to establish a parks and recreation district was to have a new swimming pool built and then provide more stable support for the pool's operation and maintenance.

Scheffler pointed out that over the years, the city of White Salmon, with significant support from the city of Bingen, have borne the biggest burden in keeping the pool open -- even though residents from all over the western part of Klickitat County and eastern Skamania County take advantage of the resource.

"These two cities have shouldered the cost for the pool -- this is a way to spread the cost out (to a wider area) so it's not just Bingen and White Salmon," Scheffler said.

Bingen council member Betty Barnes, who will take over as the city's mayor on Jan. 1, said she supported the resolution.

"We're giving the voters of Bingen a choice," Barnes explained. "I'm for this. The voters will then have the opportunity at the ballot box, and they'll know what they're voting on. Nobody likes taxes, but sometimes when people see where the money is going and the benefits, it's easier to pay them."

The council members voted 4-0 to approve the resolution, which read, in part: "Whereas the city of Bingen finds that the formation of a parks and recreation district and the inclusion of the city within the district boundaries will benefit the citizens of the city of Bingen ... the city of Bingen requests Klickitat County or Skamania County (as applicable) to include the city of Bingen within the boundaries of the proposed parks and recreation district, the formation of which will be placed on a future election ballot."

After the vote, Scheffler said the Bingen City Council's move was a big step in the process.

"That's the first one," he said.

The next evening, Dec. 16, the White Salmon City Council also approved a resolution of support for the parks and recreation district.

City Council member Bob Landgren, who has been a strong supporter of the city's swimming pool, urged the council to back the resolution.

"It's very important for this community," Landgren said.

He also pointed out that once a parks and recreation district is formed, the entity would then be able to request grants that could go to build and support a new pool.

White Salmon Mayor David Poucher also urges passage of the resolution.

"I want to really urge the council to support this," said Poucher before the vote.

White Salmon's council members voted 4-0 to approve the resolution, which is expected to go before voters in November 2010.

Bill Ward, who serves on the committee working to establish the parks and recreation district, was enthusiastic after the two councils voted to support the proposal.

"That's good news for all of us," Ward said.

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