Bingen council to Sheriff: Take down KCSO signs

Traffic venturing in and out of Bingen have a brief glimpse of Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer’s warning to sellers and users of illegal drugs: move out of Klickitat County or go to jail. Last week, Bingen City Council members met with Sheriff Songer to discuss the signs, which are on private property, and voiced their discontent with the message.

Bingen City Councilors called for Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer to remove his signs denouncing illegal drug users and sellers last week during the council’s Tuesday meeting.

Council members Stephanie Porter, Laura Mann, and Catherine Kiewit expressed dismay with the Sheriff’s decided wording and the brashness of the sign. Sheriff Song-er attended last week’s meeting to discuss the signs and answer any questions.

The signs are “scattered out throughout the county,” according to Songer. Signs are currently in-stalled in Goldendale, Bingen, and Dallesport.

Signs posted in Bingen are set on private property and do not fall under Bingen’s sign ordinance, since they aren’t for off-site commercial enterprise. The ordinance doesn’t prohibit political signage, according to Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes.

“A lot of people feel like it’s sort of derogatory for our community to have a sign like that up,” Kiewit said addressing Songer.

“If the point is to have people move out of the county or stop using drugs, I don’t think that it would make an impact,” Kiewit added. “I think the people that I’ve talked to are concerned about how it makes businesses, and the individuals, and the residents who live here feel like all the sudden Bingen has a drug problem.”

Kiewit did acknowledge that the council was aware of people in the community who use drugs illegally, but didn’t think that should be highlighted to attract “more commerce, or as a way of enriching the lives we already have here.”

“I don’t think that you should have the signs, honestly,” Kiewit said. “I think you should take them down, or put them somewhere else.”

“We have to agree to disagree,” said Songer. “I am not going to get bullied, there is no way. That’s when my heels go into the ground.”

The sentiment voiced by Kiewit was echoed by recently re-appointed council member Laura Mann, who noted the signs “As a negative aspect to a situation that could be spun more positively.” Mann added that the county should be reaching out to those who need help.

“We’re a community that’s wanting to help our neighbors, not kick people out,” Mann said.

Porter agreed with Mann and Kiewit, noting that Bingen residents had voiced displeasure with the signs. “We are not against drug enforcement, that is not what we’re coming from,” said Porter. “We are on the same page when it comes to that.”

According to Songer, his intentions in installing the signs weren’t to offend residents, “other than druggies, and I don’t mind offending them.”

During the meeting Songer told council members that he and his wife put the signs up, but if the KCSO had installed the signs they would be considered “crime prevention.” “So, there would not be anything illegal about deputies putting them up,” Songer added.

“I have tremendous support for those signs,” Songer noted. “This is the only area I’ve had any kick-back from.”