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Funding decision by REC explained to Sunnyside City Council

Basically, it came down to the fact the Sunnyside City Council wanted all of the money in the pot and the Lower Yakima County Rural Enterprise Community (REC) didn't want to give all of its remaining funds to just one entity.

The Sunnyside City Council heard this past Monday night a brief report concerning its request for all of the REC funds that were recently presented to several Lower Valley entities. The city was looking to obtain the entire REC pot to install parking meters at SunnyView Park and help Danny Mendoza build a skate park there.

Instead, the REC board of directors divided up the approximate $100,000 it had at its disposal and gave it to several groups for various projects. Sunnyside was left holding an empty bag.

Late last year, REC solicited proposals from Lower Valley groups for the more than $100,000 the group wanted to disburse in this area. REC announced last week which projects it had funded. Some of the projects included $30,000 going towards playground equipment for the City of Grandview and money for Yakima Valley Community College in Grandview to help with the construction of the wine education center at the former Safeway store.

Interim City Manager Mark Kunkler received a letter from Steve Hill, who oversees the management of REC for Yakima County, on Jan. 26. The letter informed Kunkler that REC wasn't able to fund the Council's request. Kunkler talked to Hill about the REC's decision shortly after receiving the letter.

"I didn't learn much from the conversation," said Kunkler.

Kunkler said he is expecting to attend the Feb. 24 REC board of directors meeting with Parks and Recreation Director Tom Byers, and hopefully learn more about why the city didn't receive any money for its request, which initially was one of the top two picks of REC in its initial phase of selecting proposals.

Councilman Bruce Ricks expressed his curiosity about why Sunnyside didn't receive any funding at all from REC, which he pointed out is heavily represented by Grandview. Ricks said he was concerned that Grandview received a majority of the funds from this situation.

Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar, who sits on the REC board, said the directors deliberated for more than an hour on the SunnyView Park project, which was one of seven proposals before them. Aguilar, who advocated for the Council's proposal, said it didn't work out in the end when it came to allocating funds for projects.

Pastor Mike Henry, who is a Sunnyside representative on the REC board with Aguilar, offered some clarification on why the Council's project was not funded.

"We made a couple of decisions as a REC board," said Henry.

Henry said the board decided to not look at what was best for the communities of Sunnyside and Grandview in terms of evenly receiving the funds, but rather what would benefit the entire county in the long run. Henry said the last of the projects to be considered for funding were SunnyView Park and the college's wine education center. Henry said the Council had made it perfectly clear as part of its project proposal it wanted all of the remaining REC funds. Henry said when the REC board looked at the request it couldn't fulfill what the Council wanted. Henry said since the board couldn't meet the entire request of the city, it opted to give its support to the wine education center, which would greatly benefit the entire areas with training for jobs.

Ricks, though, countered by saying Grandview substantially benefits from SunnyView Park, which Sunnyside took over from Yakima County. He said he couldn't see why the Council's proposal wasn't funded. Henry explained that the city's request included installing parking meters at the park, which wasn't seen as a great benefit to residents. Henry said the end decision boiled down to jobs, via the wine education center, versus recreation.

. Mike Kantman can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or email him at mkantman@eaglenewspapers.com

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