Plan keeps aviary in city nest, for now

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WALLA WALLA — The Pioneer Park Aviary is safe for the next six months and possibly longer, but only if supporters can show the city they can raise enough to rebuild and run the facility on a permanent basis.

On Wednesday, City Council unanimously voted to give Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary until June to raise enough money to operate the facility, which costs about $5,000 per month.

Then in June, Council will review how much was raised to operate the facility and fund a $250,000 renovation project, of which two-thirds will be paid for with FEMA funds that have been set aside.

If the funds are sufficient, Council might then decide to rebuild the failing netting structures and thus commit to a long-term operation. But without sufficient fundrasing Council members say they will close the aviary.

“If we don’t see significant fundraising both toward the capital expenses as well as the operating expenses … at that time it will be necessary to pull the plug and move forward with moving the birds,” Mayor Jim Barrow told aviary supporters just before calling for the vote that temporarily saved the facility.

The majority of Council was dubious about projections by Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary to raise as much as $317,000 by the end of 2014.

Group spokesman Craig Keister said even if the group misses its goal, he was confident it could raise enough to operate the facility and move forward with repairing the structure, as long as the city gives the group the time.

“We are very comfortable with whatever you might come up with, other than by tomorrow. We feel that for the first two years we can conservatively bring in about $225,000,” Keister said.

Aviary supporters plan on using everything from $5 monthly sponsorships to corporate donations and direct mailers.

Aviary supporters also hope to raise $20,000 from the Utility Round-Up program, in which ratepayers can donate directly to the aviary through utility bills.

That decision could go before Council in January.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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