City is split over future of events
Mayor says events like Festival of Wheels can be noisy and unsafe; others argue they bring in dollars
Goldendale could lose its status as a growing epicenter of events if the city is unable to provide proper support, a coordinator said this week.
Things like car shows, bike races, extreme sporting events, music festivals, and outdoor camping activities risk falling away if adequate exposure and funding are not put aside.
“I’m not exactly sure where we’re going in 2009 and in the future,” said Lorraine Reynolds, the city’s events coordinator. “I get the feeling the city doesn’t have the money to continue these events and the business owners don’t have the money to continue these events — and they don’t come for free.
“Without the proper support we’re not going to be able to continue.”
She said she is concerned the issue extends beyond funding and highlights a rift that exists within the community over where Goldendale should head.
Some people, she said, would like to see more nightlife and enjoy the events, whereas others prefer it quiet and want Goldendale to stay “sleepy” and small.
So far, it has been unclear where city heads will take it.
This week, Mayor Arletta Parton said she would like to see a move away from the larger events, which tend to attract younger, rowdier crowds. She said concerns about safety, noise, and unwanted visitors have surfaced and she feels some of the events negatively influence kids.
The mayor pointed to one event specifically, which officials have since opted not to host, called Smokin’ Joe’s Tire Burnout. In it, competitors spun tire wheels to the point of smoke and combustion.
The event was held on a main road in town.
“That’s pure crazy,” Parton said. “I worry about the safety of our people. I don’t think things like that should be done in town.”
Beyond safety, she said, children are susceptible to certain dangers.
“You know how young kids relate to that kind of thing? They think, ‘Oh, that’s so cool,’ and the first thing you’ve got is a troubled teen. I just get concerned for the impression it puts on them,” Parton said.
If it were up to her, the mayor said, she would eliminate larger events like the car shows and stick to smaller gatherings like the bluegrass band that sang recently at the courthouse.
Larry Bellamy, city administrator, said he envisions something in the middle.
“From my vantage point, it appears every time we have a major event, our motels are full,” said Bellamy. “They all have their benefits. The Festival of Wheels seems to bring in a lot of people. On the other hand, they’re a little wilder…That is maybe not what the retired folks want. We have to continue to evaluate how the events fit into what the community wants.”
“That’s the balancing game we’re trying to play.”
With all the debate, Reynolds said she is concerned her contract may not be renewed next year. However, Parton stressed the issue has not been discussed.
The events planner was contracted in 2005 after a city survey showed the issue as the number one thing people wanted emphasized. A hotel-motel tax was set aside for funding and, in exchange, the events were to generate hotel revenue and bring in added business.
At the time, it was not determined which types of events would be the focus.
Some have argued only businesses like hotels, gas station, and restaurants benefit. However, Reynolds said the scope of the events goes beyond “heads and beds.”
The activities bring in potential entrepreneurs, business people, and future tourists and recreationalists. Many visit Goldendale for the first time and decide to come back later. In this sense, she said, the entire community benefits.
“They may not get the first dollar, but they may get the second or the third dollar,” Reynolds said.
However, Parton said the county should be involved in funding some of the events because many occur outside city limits.
Mike Canon, Economic Development Director for Klickitat County, said they cannot get involved in funding tourism for Goldendale specifically.
“If we do that we’d be doing that to all the county and we don’t have the capacity to do that,” said Canon. “We’re supportive of these kinds of events happening but not at the cost of economic development…Tourism is an element of that but it’s not the main thrust at all.”
He pointed to a Tourism Advisory Board as well as a small grants program the county already participates in.
In recent years, Goldendale has begun gaining attention as a hotspot for these types of events, according to Reynolds. Many of the events have brought national coverage from news sources like MTV and NBC affiliates. The upcoming Festival of Speed will draw 200 competitors from 12 countries.
However, Reynolds said, the town can fall back off the map as quickly as it has hopped on.
Bellamy said he believes a compromise can be found.
“I still believe there’s energy in our community to do these events, he said. “We just have to make sure we’re putting the money into things where we get the most bang for our buck.”
Until the issue is sorted out, the mayor said her focus remains on two things: family wage jobs and affordable housing. They have also discussed a community center and additional city cleanups, both of which bring the community together for the common good.
“It behooves us to offer that, to give people the inspiration that if they’re doing their part, we’ll do ours,” said Parton.
KVH officials hire new interim CFO; questions over severance clarified
The Klickitat Valley Health hospital has announced a replacement interim Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to begin next week.
Mark Wishard will begin Wednesday, August 13, and will work for the hospital until a permanent CFO can be found.
“Mark has a strong background in healthcare finance including an MBA, CFO experience in larger hospitals, and interim experience in a Critical Access Hospital similar in size to KVH,” said Jeff Teal, development director for the hospital.
Wishard will replace Wade Sturgeon, who stepped down on July 11. A separation agreement between Sturgeon and the hospital was released earlier this week outlining a detailed severance package.
In it, Sturgeon agreed to release all claims against the hospital in exchange for three months severance pay, totaling $25,125. The former interim CFO also received accrued paid time off and about three months of health coverage.
Although severance packages are often associated with employee terminations, hospital administrators emphasized it was a mutual decision.
“He wasn’t fired,” said John Rohrer, KVH interim CEO. “He wasn’t terminated...he was as much forced out the door as anything else.”
Rohrer reiterated Sturgeon had been openly searching for employment for months and it was common knowledge he was on his way out.
Gwyn Miller, KVH human resources director, said Sturgeon first talked to Steve Kinder, a representative for Brim Healthcare, the hospital’s former management company, about his decision to leave. He then emailed a letter of resignation, which she received June 30.
Sturgeon mailed his letter before the decision not to renew the Brim contract was made on July 7. It was also prior to a special board of commissioners meeting was called on July 2, in which his employment was reportedly discussed.
Rohrer stressed that Sturgeon was an excellent CFO and took care of technical issues well. He said issues that were present had to do with personal relations, and were mostly due to him being worn out from a long history of accusations and controversy over Brim Healthcare and a recent state audit.
“Wade Sturgeon did a fine job at this hospital,” said Rohrer. “He was beat up and battle-worn. He didn’t have the greatest of people skills. He had a way of upsetting people. In the long run, it wore on people and it wore on Wade.
“Bottom line - in my judgment - Wade Sturgeon did a fine job as a CFO at this hospital. That’s what he should be remembered for.”
Results for the most recent hospital audit will be released in the coming weeks.
Monastery submits plan for bridge on Dry Creek
Plans for a new bridge across Dry Creek are outlined in documents filed by the St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery at the Klickitat County Planning Department. The bridge would replace one washed out by flood in 1996 and accommodate residents of the new living facilities that are planned for the east side of the creek.
The current situation requires residents and visitors to negotiate a hazardous intersection on and off Highway 97, according to the applicants. Written comments about the mitigated determination of non-significance may be submitted to the planning department by Aug. 15.