Aviary may be on chopping block again

Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary presented the city a check for $114,00 to cover aviary operating costs for 2011 and 2012.

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One of four white peacock chicks finds shelter and food in a small pen at the Pioneer Park Aviary as aviary volunteer Jean Pennington cleans the area while talking to a park visitor about the chicks Saturday morning. Pennington said the chicks' mother was stolen about a month ago but the chicks have survived in a cage with two Impeyan chicks.

WALLA WALLA - In spite of a $114,00 show of support from the community, funding for the Pioneer Park Aviary was again dropped for the preliminary 2013/2014 biennial budget.

Two years ago, the aviary was dropped from the 2011/2012 biennial budget. But after a strong public outcry, city officials agreed to keep the facility open if supporters could raise $110,000 to operate it for two years.

On July 16, at a crowded City Council work session with roughly two dozen supporters, Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary presented the city a check for $114,00 to cover aviary operating costs for 2011 and 2012.

Though the community showed its support, Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont said he is still not funding the aviary for the next two years because of budget cuts that leave no room for additional programs. Though he added that could change.

"The aviary funding issue is not decided, and I expect it will not be determined until late in the budget process. The Advisory Board will have an opportunity to look at our services and determine once again the priority for our program services," Dumont said.

In 2012, with all city departments facing cuts of roughly 5-10 percent, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board put the aviary at the bottom of the department's priority list, which led to a cut of all funding for the aviary.

Recent interviews with three Advisory Board members showed that all three are considering moving the aviary up in priority.

One of those interviewed included Lenore Barkan, a member of the 2010 Advisory Board that put the aviary at the bottom of the priority list.

"My own view is that the Parks Board is a public body and it should, to the best of its ability, do what the public wants because it is the public's servant. And I think the public has spoken clearly in this matter. There is a lot of support for the aviary," Barkan said.

She added that if the aviary is to be funded, the money should come from another part of the city's general fund other than the already strapped Parks and Recreation budget.

The recent show of support and presentation of the check has some City Council members considering if funding should occur.

"It is definitely going to be something that we are going to be talking about because raising $114,000 is no small thing," Council member Chris Plucker said.

Dumont said he will meet with the city manager this week to review his department's preliminary budget.

City Council will have the final decision on whether to fund the aviary.

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