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City leaders conservatively ete new housing rehab program

Citing financial concerns, Sunnyside City Council members last week decided to proceed slowly before entering a new, more extensive housing rehabilitation project to benefit local residents.

The idea to enter a new housing rehabilitation program came from Gene Weinmann of the Yakima Valley Conference of Governments (COG). COG is currently overseeing the Sunnyside Up! housing rehabilitation program for the city.

Weinmann was providing Council with an update of recent activities involving the Sunnyside Up! program.

Weinmann told Council the last housing rehabilitation project falling under the Sunnyside Up! program was recently put out for bid and construction should begin in the next few weeks.

The Sunnyside Up! housing rehabilitation project stemmed from a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) the city obtained in 2002. There has also been additional monies in the form of $250,000 for street and sidewalk improvements set aside.

By the time the Sunnyside Up! housing project concludes, towards the latter part of the year, some 22 homes in the community will have been upgraded. Another 15 will have had extensive weatherization improvements done.

Weinmann informed the Council of some changes at the state level that could benefit the city with funding for upcoming projects. The CDBG program has changed its allocation process for grant applications. Until last year, cities could only apply for one CDBG grant per year. Now, said Weinmann, cities can apply for separate housing rehabilitation grants in addition to one other CDBG grant for funding any other needed projects.

Weinmann said the city could benefit greatly from these application process changes. He said the city has an excellent track record with CDBG funding, which will benefit Sunnyside with its application process.

The city does have some time before having to submit the actual CDBG application, seeking funding for any new housing rehabilitation program, said Weinmann. Weinmann did caution the Council that if the city does decide to pursue a more extensive housing rehabilitation program with COG, he would need some sort of direction within the next few weeks. Weinmann said he was looking at tackling an all-inclusive, city-wide housing rehabilitation program and it would take time to gather the needed data to go along with the application. Weinmann said the city's application for CDBG funding would not be due until mid-November.

Mayor Pro-tem Mike Farmer had concerns about entering a new housing rehabilitation program, considering the fiscal problems the city is having. For the Sunnyside Up! housing rehabilitation program, the city committed $110,000.

"It is going to be a tighter year this budget year than last," added Councilman Don Vlieger.

Vlieger said if the city committed the type of money it did for the Sunnyside Up! housing rehabilitation program, it would cost the city at least two employees.

"I am not opposed to the program," said Vlieger. "That match is just a killer."

Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar said she would like to see the city move forward with a new housing rehabilitation program. She felt a project such as this would greatly enhance the city.

Mayor Ed Prilucik directed Interim City Manager Mark Kunkler to research the ins and outs of entering into a new housing rehabilitation program and bring a report back to Council. Weinmann said he would also gather more financial data for the Council to review.

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