Walla Walla pulls plug on aviary fund

The City Council action would close the park attraction within a year.

The Aviary's Joanna Lanning stretches to feed a Temminck's Tragopan by hand.

The Aviary's Joanna Lanning stretches to feed a Temminck's Tragopan by hand. File photo

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WALLA WALLA — Four years of battling to save Pioneer Park Aviary ended Wednesday night when Council voted 5-2 to close the facility.

“I sadly put forth the motion that we move forward with Recommendation Four from our city staff and close the aviary,” Council member Allen Pomraning said.

That motion was seconded by Barbara Clark, who has consistently opposed funding the aviary with general funds that could be used for other underfunded city programs. Clark has also questioned if Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary — a nonprofit that took over funding the aviary in 2011 — has been able to provide the $55,000 needed each year for operating the aviary.

“It is unfair to ask a voluntary group to be put in the position of having to raise $55,000 a year,” Clark said before the vote. “I don’t think that you have been able to do it. You had the city put in money for the last couple years. You have had the Roundup program,” referring to approximately $10,000 donated by city utility customers.

Clark, Pomraning and Council members Dick Morgan, Mary Lou Jenkins and Mayor Jerry Cummins voted for Pomraning’s motion to close the aviary.

Jim Barrow and Chris Plucker voted against the closure.

“I do want to issue a word of caution and that is if we are to value the perception of city government to our citizens we will keep this aviary open,” Plucker said before the vote. “I feel that shutting it down, the backlash will be very negative.”

During discussion, Barrow made a motion to fund the aviary from the city’s general fund, which it did before 2011 before funding was completely cut for three years.

“I want this to be part of our park. I want this to be what I and other people in this audience and community are paying for when we pay our taxes,” Barrow said.

He included in his motion that $190,000 in aviary restoration money be used to rebuild the larger enclosure and the city to backfill any capital expenses that Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary doesn’t raise for the $385,000 project.

“It has been three years, the city needs to step up. The people have spoken. They want this,” said Plucker, who seconded Barrow’s motion. “We certainly could afford several hundred-thousand dollars worth of raises a month ago. Why can’t we fund something people will see immediate value in.”

Barrow’s motion to fund the aviary failed 2-5.

Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont said today the process of closing the aviary, tearing down and landscaping the site could take anywhere from six months to year. He said a rough estimate of the work would be $100,000 and include salaries while the birds are relocated.

Over the next couple weeks his department will work on a closure plan.

“It seems pretty massive at the moment so we will break it down step by step,” Dumont said, noting there are questions as to how long the process will take and whether birds can be shipped to new homes before the heat of summer. “Nothing is going to happen with the birds for the next two weeks because we have to take care of the employee issues. And we don’t know because we have never done this before.”

Before the closure vote, former Council member Shane Laib, chairman of Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary, cautioned the city that it could not use $190,000 in dedicated funds for anything but repairing the aviary.

Dumont said those funds are a mixture of Federal Emergency Management Agency and private insurance funds that were paid to the city for storm damage to the aviary.

City Attorney Tim Donaldson said he was unsure if the funds were restricted to repair work.

Laib added that Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary hasn’t given up and will meet this week to plan their next move.

“We are organizing an emergency meeting to explore options and those do include legal options,” Laib said. “We are going to explore all options here and every option is going to be on the table.”

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

Interactives

Pioneer Park Aviary funding battle

The Pioneer Park Aviary has struggled to find enough funds to stay open for several years.

Comments

mspinks 8 months, 1 week ago

Shameful and shortsighted. The power players in town need to step up.

1

namvet60 8 months, 1 week ago

The most eye catching statement in this story:

“We certainly could afford several hundred-thousand dollars worth of raises a month ago. Why can’t we fund something people will see immediate value in.”

The amount of money taken in and never seems to end up where it was projected.

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clarkfamily89 8 months, 1 week ago

Its called poor management. The Avairy itself brought much delight to young and old and it didn't cost anything. What a hugh part of Pioneer Park will be missing. I hope we don't fill it in and use it for a storage shed like we did when we got rid of the much used swimming pool. Oh well it doesn't matter what voters think.

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Kevconpat 8 months, 1 week ago

Every Family member; Sister, Nephew, Brother in-laws, Mom, Dad and Friends visiting from Seattle, Lynnwood, Renton, Vancouver, BC and Denver have enjoyed the aviary! We proudly took them there. Not EVERYONE wants or can go to a winery. You are destroying years of tradition and the lives of beautiful creatures. Selfish, short sighted and incredibly smug are the Council'5'. Really? A unique gem- if a bit tarnished will be thrown away because 5 council members say so! The heart and soul of this community is being destroyed because there was not more guts from you in finding a way to bring the aviary back to health. Shameful! Absolutely in shock. $100,000 to close it down. Did I read this correctly? We worked hard and selflessly on yard sales for the aviary as 100's even 1000's of other citizens pitched in. In numerous way's. For several years! City Council '5' should renounce this act and rethink their actions. It is not too late. Please!

3

Mochadelicious 8 months, 1 week ago

So what will happen to that $190,000 that is from FEMA and private insurance? That money was given with the intent to repair, not tear down. I hope someone keeps a close eye on this and makes sure the money is spent for what it was intended for.

2

PeggyJoy 8 months, 1 week ago

"Clark, Pomraning and Council members Dick Morgan, Mary Lou Jenkins and Mayor Jerry Cummins voted for Pomraning’s motion to close the aviary"

Seems they have found the money to cover the pay raises!

1

Kevconpat 8 months, 1 week ago

Yeah ,Really. Still fuming.......

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VinoTinto 8 months, 1 week ago

I will never vote for those clowns nor contribute to their re-election campaigns. The aviary is one of my favorite things about Walla Walla. Enjoy your fat raises while you sit on your fat arses and do nothing!!!

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Chas 8 months, 1 week ago

The aviary is falling apart and the repairs cannot be put off indefinitely, nor can it become a hazard. The public haven't stepped up to pay the costs. They tried and failed. One Council member suggests needs require about one million dollars. No small endeavor.

The city and council has set its priorities correctly. I'm sorry to see it go, but the monies are needed elsewhere.

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fatherof5 8 months, 1 week ago

Quick math: The article says the project is $385,000. They already have $190,000 in dedicated funds. They apparently think they can find $100,000 to demolish the thing. That leaves $95,000, which for a town of this size, comes to approximately $ .25 per person per month for one year. We can't afford a quarter per month per person?

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Chas 8 months, 1 week ago

With a declining income over the last three decades. fatherof5 and I may spend a quarter a month per person. An ever shrinking number of households in the future will not, nor should be required to pay.

The priorities for the city are water, sewage, courts, ems, fire and police, engineering, parks.

The grounds will require environmental clean-up as there's years of dung. It is always in danger of becoming ground zero to new flu strains.

We lost our flu shot round-up several years ago. That served to protect people. People are the greater investment than birds. If you want someone to step up and pay for the aviary year after year, find them.

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fatherof5 8 months, 1 week ago

The two council members who tried to save the aviary should be commended. This is an extraordinarily short-sighted decision. We can only hope someone, somewhere with more vision and resources is able to step up and intervene. I don't know who that is or how that happens.

The aviary is a great place for families. As a parent in this community, the recent failures of the water park vote, the Wa-Hi bond, and now this decision are disheartening indicators that this is not a town focused on its youth.

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Chas 8 months, 1 week ago

If Walla Walla is typical then people are more likely focused on their high levels of debt. Many voters see the water park, school bond, and aviary, as spend, spend, spend. Debt makes it hard to take the long view.

Don't take it personally.

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fatherof5 8 months, 1 week ago

Where I disagree with the "many voters" you describe, Chas, is that to "spend, spend, spend" when it is directed judiciously and intelligently can pay dividends in myriad ways. The pared down water park project was projected as being financially self-sufficient after the initial influx of public/private dollars and would have enhanced our community and improved quality of life.

The 2013 Wa-Hi bond was also a revised significantly from the 2006 bond due to public input and was revised again to cut out $10 million from the project in 2012 after the CP HS school bond passed. The Wa-Hi bond took advantage of low interest rates and construction costs we will never see again in our lifetime and would have cost 1/4 the amount CP residents were paying per household for the bond they passed...but the Wa-Hi bond would have done so much more. The problems at Wa-Hi won't go away; we will now just have to spend more when we eventually address them.

The aviary is similar. It has been an iconic symbol of a community that is more than just a run-of-the-mill small town. It enhances our quality of life without a large expenditure. Once it is gone, it's gone forever.

You are correct that "debt makes it hard to take the long view," but that doesn't make short-sightedness wise. If, as you say, "many voters see" these things as "spend, spend, spend," then it is our job to offer a bigger picture perspective.

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Chas 8 months, 1 week ago

The aviary could be lost, or require destruction, as happened across Asia this winter with the recent discoveries of novel, emerging, flu strains. It really isn't a matter of if, so much as when.

The swimming pools and aviary are not money makers. How reliable has the golf course been ending fiscal years in the black. The average household has lost 6% of its spending power since 2009. I read the sentimental comments and wonder how many have learned to met payroll and live to a budget. The aviary people have tried to met their obligations and failed.

I disagree with your "not a large expenditure" position and think it is outside the bounds of the mission of the City of Walla Walla. "Iconic symbols" is not their business.

1

fatherof5 8 months, 1 week ago

Parks aren't money makers. Why do cities fund them?

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barracuda 8 months, 1 week ago

There are laws stating that a city who takes in tax money from citizens has to offer "X" amount of public green space for "X" amount of residents. There is a formula for it. The law states it has to be green space but does not stipulate any other items to be included in the green space.

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fatherof5 8 months, 1 week ago

That is interest, barracuda. I didn't know that. Without that law, I wonder, would we really abandon the parks in Walla Walla because they aren't money makers? I want to live in a country/state/county/town where my government (i.e. the citizenry) understands there is value to funding the arts, parks, and cultural events. Maybe it's just a tiny portion of the budget, like what we do for PBS, but these investments elevate us as a people.

1

barracuda 8 months ago

I agree with most of your statement... The PBS portion is not a good example in my opinion (My opinion: It needs to support itself or fail not on my dime... Lol for a different debate.... ) The city is already setting aside a portion of our tax money for the public green space. (full discloser.... I want the Aviary to stay).... The city fathers I am sure is looking at the whole picture and say we no longer want the Birds as a priority, and use the money for maintaining the ball fields or restrooms etc. Obviously there are more users in other areas of the parks, areas that need more money for maintenance. It could be a simple as "what areas of the parks/cemetery is getting all of the use and how do we maintain these areas. " Personally I am glad they did not raise our taxes for the Aviary. I hope there are privet users to step up or make it a user fee pays for system.

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writewinger 8 months, 1 week ago

Suppose the City Council will take advantage of spending thousands to erect a sign near the sight of the abandoned Aviary extolling their decision to save taxpayer dollars by eliminating this favorite family attraction and child learning center for so many? Guess it won't help one of the primary decision makers much though since the Director of P&R for the City of Walla Walla and making the big bucks lives and I presume pays his City property taxes in College Place. Makes one wonder!

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jennybuggs 8 months, 1 week ago

I thought Jim Dumont already bought a lawn tractor for Parks with the aviary money?

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rinowife 8 months ago

And also threw a whole lot more money toward the golf course.

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sneakerhead 8 months, 1 week ago

Take the money from the POT HOLE FUND... Where did that money go??

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GeneandCassie 8 months, 1 week ago

Given the large $$$ value of revenues anticipated to result from the newly the authorized sale of 'smokes,' perhaps some funding stream for the Aviary could be set up from those future sales revenues......

Perhaps call it ''Puffin' for a Puffin???'

Hopefully the Aviary's future will be reconsidered....

2

rinowife 8 months ago

I wonder how much money was thrown at the golf course this winter, what with paying workers double over time, hauling in new sand, equipment, etcetera, to get it up to par. Is this where our town wanted this money, or could it have been put towards running the aviary for a couple years.

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