WALLA WALLA - Once again Pioneer Park Aviary is threatened with closure next year after a $55,000 surety bond from The Center at the Park was withdrawn because the financial commitment went against the organization's bylaws.
"The board acted prematurely in voting that we were going to issue a surety bond," board member Dan Mallery said.
He explained that at the next board meeting, board members clarified that the surety bond could not be provided without a vote of the general members. Board members voted to take the matter to the general membership for a vote on Dec. 8.
"We acted prematurely. We acted irrationally. And we were excited about doing something to help save the aviary," Mallery said.
The question that remains is will members of the Center support backing the aviary for a year, with no guarantee that any fundraising dollars will be raised.
Board member Shirley Azeltine doesn't think so.
"A lot of them are not wanting to go with it because of having to come up with that kind of money for a year," Azeltine said.
She said she was not at the meeting when the original board vote took place, but she heard numerous comments from members in the subsequent days.
"They feel that there are more needs around town to take care of seniors in the area instead of taking care of everyone that goes to the aviary," she said.
According to the Center's bylaws, at least 50 of the roughly 800 general members of the Center must participate in the vote. If the majority of those participating vote no, City Manager Nabiel Shawa said the plan is to go ahead with closing the facility, unless some other group comes forward with the funds.
"It doesn't mean that other community groups or citizens won't come forth. And I am always willing to work with them and do some outreach. But time is ticking," Shawa said.
But a closure won't be too immediate, Park and Recreation Director Jim Dumont said. He said closure work could not begin in the middle of winter, which would allow a few weeks for another group to come up with the money.
"There is a three- or four-month period of time that we knew going into it that if it closes we couldn't shut the door and lock it. We still have to deal with the birds," Dumont said, noting there are roughly 200 birds in the facility.
At 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, members of The Center At The Park will meet there to vote on a resolution as to whether or not to "reserve $55,000 in a special account to assure ... funds will be available to cover the operating costs of the Aviary for one year," a meeting flier stated.
The resolution further states that The Center At The Park will take the lead role in fundraising for the $55,000. But in the event fundraising falls short, "the Senior Center will make up the difference from the funds that were set aside."