Officials: Funds will be used for repairs if Aviary remains open

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WALLA WALLA -- City officials say they have every intention of using dedicated FEMA funds to repair the Pioneer Park Aviary as long as the aviary is funded next year.

A number of concerned residents have complained to city officials over a recent financial juggle of $60,000 in FEMA funding for the Aviary; the money was used to buy a new tractor mower.

The issue goes back to 2008, when storms caused extensive damage to the netting and other parts of the aviary.

A large portion of that damage qualified for FEMA reimbursement funding, as long as the city paid for the repairs prior to the FEMA deadline.

The plot thickened when the aviary was left unfunded by the city in 2011 and 2012.

Though a group of volunteers had committed to raise the operating funds, Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont said he would not invest FEMA funds in a aviary that could end up being shut down.

With the FEMA deadline nearing this year, last fall city officials petitioned the federal agency to allow them to spend their portion on an alternate project, which was the purchase of a tractor mower approved by City Council last week.

Dumont said funds for the tractor mower had already been set aside as part of the 2013 city budget, and he said if the aviary gets funded next year, the 2013 mower replacement funds will go into aviary repairs.

"... The money will be reimbursed from the City Equipment Reserve Fund for the Aviary reconstruction if it is determined by the Council to continue Aviary operations in 2013 which will then trigger reconstruction plans of the net pen," Dumont wrote in an email.

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

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