City OKs Utility Round-up program for aviary

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WALLA WALLA — For the third consecutive year, City Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to dedicate funds from this year’s Utility Round-up donation program to the unfunded Pioneer Park Aviary.

Last month, Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary asked the city to dedicate what it expected to be $10,000 in round-up donations for 2013.

Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary recently embarked on a two-year fundraising goal of $275,000 to cover operating costs in 2013 and 2014 and to begin construction of a new aviary.

Though the Utility Round-up funds make up less than 10 percent of the goal, Friends of Pioneer Park Aviary spokesman Craig Keister said the funds will provide a steady income and increase public awareness about their cause.

“The great thing about the Round-up is it is really simple and it is convenient ... Once it gets going, we can count on it and we have a good idea of what is coming in,” Keister said.

During budget talks last fall, city officials said they planned to shut down the aviary due to a lack of funding. But last month, at the request of aviary supporters, Council agreed to use what was approximately $15,000 left in donated funds to keep the facility operating for three months while supporters begin raising funds.

In 2011 and 2012, Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary raised approximately $121,000, of which $18,000 was from the Utility Round-up program.

The program allows residents to send extra money dedicated to the aviary along with their monthly utility bill.

Keister also said that Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary is currently applying for nonprofit status, which will eventually allow supporters to designate donations specifically to the new enclosure.

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