WALLA WALLA -- Members of The Center at the Park overwhelmingly voted Wednesday against providing a $55,000 surety bond to the city to fund the Pioneer Park Aviary, which means the facility remains unfunded for next year and will most likely face a complete closure in early 2011.
At a meeting during the center's regular senior lunch, only four hands from 61 voting members present were counted in favor of providing the city with funds that would have been used as a backup in case fundraising efforts fell short.
Even before the vote, Executive Director Mike Johnson said he had his doubts that the center could raise enough money to keep the aviary going, which would have meant the center have to make up the difference.
"We were lucky to make $10,000, and we worked really hard at that," Johnson said, referring to the Center's recent holiday bazaar Saturday. He continued, "But are you ready to go and raise $55,000, because that is essentially what we will have to do."
When it came time for a show of hands of those opposed, dozens of arms reached up.
Before the vote, staff and members discussed the surety bond. Among those who spoke, most were against supporting the bond, which was proposed by board members in October.
Among those who urged a "no" vote was center Vice President Louis Hammock Jr.
"If we use these (reserve) funds and we have an emergency, what are we going to use for funds," Hammock warned the roughly 150 seniors present, many of whom came for a $3 lunch of baked chicken, mashed potatoes and chocolate cake, as well as the chance to hear what all the fuss was about.
The fuss started in October when board members -- in response to a city proposal to shut down the aviary due to budget cuts -- voted to back a surety bond to fund the aviary for 2011, but only if other funds could not be secured. And the board agreed the center would take a lead role in fundraising.
But in the days to follow, board members realized they could not provide the bond without a vote of the general membership. So at its next meeting, the board voted to withdraw support of the bond and instead let members vote on the matter.
Watching Wednesday's vote was Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont, who heads the aviary, among other city facilities. Dumont chose to hold back on commenting on the results until he could meet with other individuals and organizations who recently have shown an interest in forming a support organization for the aviary.
Dumont did ask that any individuals interested in supporting the aviary call the department at 527-4527.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8325.