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REC scraps SunnyView Park from funding list

A playground and a new education center, both in Grandview, are the big winners in the divvying up of a pocket of federal funds being administered by the Lower Yakima Valley Rural Enterprise Community (REC) Board of Directors.

The REC board began accepting proposals in November to disperse $100,000 in remaining funds it has left out of an initial $2.9 million federal Rural Enterprise Community grant.

Yakima Valley Community College's proposal for a new grape and wine education center at the Grandview YVCC campus received $38,500 of the remaining $100,000 in the REC's treasury.

The City of Grandview's playground proposal for Dykstra Park also received $30,000.

Also receiving REC funds was Horizon of Sunnyside's Project Upskills, which is a program to help people learn technology for career advancement, in the amount of $15,000. The Sunnyside Community Hospital health care career seminar program received $11,500, and Washington State Migrant Council received $5,000 for the Sunnyside Community Center to purchase equipment for a youth activities program.

Noticeably absent from the list of awardees was Sunnyside's request for funds for the construction of the SunnyView skate park. The Sunnyside City Council created a bit of controversy when it made a request to have all of the remaining REC funds for the SunnyView Park project, even though the REC board had planned to distribute the funds among a number of community based projects.

This morning, Sunnyside City Councilman Bruce Ricks was disappointed to find out the REC board of directors didn't allocate any funding for the SunnyView Park proposal.

Part of the city's request for funding SunnyView Park was to provide dollars to help Danny Mendoza build a skate park he has been trying to see come to fruition for years.

"It is an extremely worthwhile opportunity," said Ricks.

Ricks was even more curious as to why SunnyView Park didn't receive any kind of funding from REC, since the project received unanimous approval from the REC board back in December. Ricks said he and Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Director Tom Byers attended a meeting of the REC board after it received the requests for proposals in December. The REC board went through a process where it awarded points to projects to narrow down the list for funding consideration. Ricks said the SunnyView Park project was the top consideration of the board at the time and this morning was curious as to how it could completely fall off the radar. The REC board had provided Mendoza with $1,000 for his skateboard park a while back, said Ricks.

"It is beyond me as to why it fell out of the group," said Ricks.

Byers was more than displeased with the decision of the REC board. Byers said it has come to his attention that the SunnyView Park proposal was taken out of consideration for funding before Sunnyside made its official presentation on Jan. 10. Byers said during the initial go-around in December, the SunnyView Park project and the proposal from Horizon Inc. were the only ones to receive 100 percent board approval to move to the next step.

"Based on that, we thought we had a good chance of getting this done," said Byers. "This in my opinion was the wrong decision. We should have been looking at something for the kids."

In the final analysis, majority vote ruled, said Sunnyside City Councilwoman Bengie Aguilar.

"I'm very disappointed," said Aguilar, who also serves on the REC Board. Aguilar had been instructed by the Sunnyside Council to champion the park, a task she said she took seriously.

"I kept the park discussion open for over an hour trying to get the board members to vote for it," she said.

"I did my best, " she said.

But in the end, sustainability, longevity and the agency's ability to leverage REC funds into other money were the criteria the board used in determining which projects to fund, said Joan Souders, chair of the REC board.

"I believe we did the best job we could to expend the money offers to help the most people in the areas," Souders said.

She said the REC board voted to fund the wine and food education center based on its sustainability and future potential for jobs in the Yakima Valley.

The REC board met in early January to decide which proposals the members felt would make best use of the REC's grant funds, said Souders.

Grandview Parks and Recreation Director Mike Carpenter is elated with the REC board's decision to fund his city's playground project.

"We are thankful they saw the merit in our project," said Carpenter.

Carpenter has an ambitious plan to build a large playground for youths ages 5 to 12 at the west end of Dykstra Park near Euclid Avenue. Dykstra Park is the largest park in Grandview, covering 28 acres.

Carpenter said the playground equipment meeting the needs of community youths is lacking in the city's park system, which he is hoping to remedy with this project.

There are many benefits to having the playground area at Dykstra Park, believes Carpenter. The park is located near three mobile home parks and two apartment complexes. One of the mobile home areas is strictly for senior citizens. Carpenter is hoping that with the playground area he will be able to bring together the senior citizens and the youth who frequent the park.

Carpenter added the city's playground committee, which consists of himself, assistant parks director Gretchen Chronis, Liz Charvet and Elizabeth Jimenez, are excited to move forward with the project. The group will soon be visiting the schools and speaking with youngsters to find out what kind of equipment they would like to have at the park.

"We are putting together a plan to go into the schools to get some vital feedback from the kids," said Carpenter. "So we have a true representation."

Carpenter said the support of the community was one of the areas he felt was strong on the city's application for REC funds. Carpenter has already received financial and labor donations to put the playground in.

Carpenter is expecting to spend slightly more than $40,000 on the playground. The project also benefited from an anonymous donation of $10,000, said Carpenter.

The playground project, Carpenter is hoping, will be completed before the end of the school year.

The recipients learned Wednesday via written notification that they had been awarded REC funds.

. Julia Hart can be contacted at

(509) 837-4500, or you can e-mail her at jhart@eaglenewspapers.com

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