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REC board queried on why funds not allocated for skate park

As the Lower Yakima Valley Rural Enterprise Community (LYVREC) board met Tuesday night to review progress being made by the agencies that received funding from the federally-funded board last month, representatives of a rejected Sunnyside city project waited to question the board on its funding decisions.

Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Department Director Tom Byers and Danny Mendoza, 16, who has championed the construction of a skateboard facility at SunnyView Park, attended Tuesday night's meeting asking for a better explanation of why Sunnyside's skateboard park proposal had been swept off the funding table.

"How did we go from being at the top of the funding list to being scrapped all together," asked Mendoza, who has been working on the skateboard project for the past five years.

The skateboard park project, designed to become a part of SunnyView Park, located midway between Sunnyside and Grandview, was not among the selections which received appropriations from the LYVREC board's final pot of money in January.

In late December, the Sunnyside City Council requested all of the remaining money left of the LYVREC's $2.9 million federal funding, about $100,000, for the development of the Lower Valley park, a request some feel may have led to its being rejected from funding consideration. Not so, said Joan Souders, LYVREC board chair.

"As I've said before, we looked at sustainability and jobs when it came to our funding decision," said Souders.

Receiving the bulk of the REC funds were a Grandview playground project and a grape and wine education center at the Grandview campus of Yakima Valley Community College. Also receiving REC funding were the Washington State Migrant Council's Sunnyside Community Center equipment request, and the Horizon Of Sunnyside's adult computer, education and language classes. Sunnyside Community Hospital also received funding for a health care program for young people considering entering the health field.

All of those projects, including the Sunnyside park proposal, had been among the top projects initially approved for consideration by the LYVREC board in December. But controversy over the Sunnyside City Council's request for the entire $100,000 may have colored the board decision, a claim denied by the LYVREC Board.

"We only had a certain amount of money to distribute," said Mike Henry, a board member from Sunnyside.

"We had to look at all of the projects," he said, reiterating that no single community was judged over another.

Henry said the board was very interested in the skate park, but ultimately the issue of jobs was the determining criteria.

Souders said there were other applicants who were also eliminated.

"All of the applicants were given an opportunity to move to the next level," she said.

Souders told Mendoza and Byers that the board worked hard to make the "best decision with the amount of money we had.

"We had a scoring process and we strictly followed it," she added.

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