It would be a mistake — and incredibly unpopular — to close the Pioneer Park Aviary.
Since the Walla Walla City Council voted 5-2 on Wednesday night to shut down the Aviary, citizens have been sounding off — mostly via social media.
The Council’s decision is being lambasted on Facebook and pummeled in a Union-Bulletin.com poll. As of this morning, with 573 votes cast (the poll generally gets under 100 votes) about 93 percent of respondents disagree with the Council’s decision. Wow!
While this poll is far from scientific, it is nonetheless significant. It is incredibly difficult to get nine out of 10 people to agree on anything.
And a great many of the comments posted on the Internet make it clear folks are disgusted with the approach taken by the Council majority and city government in general.
Instead of marching down Main Street with pitchforks and torches, the people are using iPads and smartphones.
The Council should revisit its decision.
A citizens’ group, Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary, has been raising money in an effort to cover the annual Aviary expenses of about $55,000. The group has done an admirable job over the past three years, but it’s clear it was becoming more and more difficult to sustain the effort.
Still, the Friends of the Aviary should have been given more time to succeed.
The Council’s decision to pull the plug at this time was made because the Aviary needs a great deal of repair. The Aviary was damaged significantly by storms in 2008. The city has about $190,000 from insurance set aside to make repairs.
However, the estimates to properly fix the Aviary are far higher. To cover the larger of the two ponds would be $375,000 and the smaller about $285,000.
The city doesn’t want to put a lot of money into the Aviary if it might close in a few years.
However, the Aviary has been limping along since 2008 in a satisfactory manner. Perhaps there is a way to alter the plans to trim the costs of the projects.
The Friends of the Aviary has said the group is not giving up. City officials should be working with those eager citizens to come up with a long-term solution, perhaps a public-private partnership, that will keep the Aviary going.
Most in the Walla Walla Valley see the Aviary as part of the charm of Pioneer Park — a package deal.
Yes, the city budget is tight and the tax dollars are spread thin. Still, the recent hike in property taxes and the pay raises at City Hall have people questioning the city’s money woes.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to believe that $55,000 a year can’t be allocated from an annual general government budget of $24 million.
In the end, the people — the taxpayers — want the Aviary to stay. The Council should find a way for that to happen.