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Council says no to housing project

Citing uneasy economic times, the Sunnyside City Council this past Monday night voted to not pursue a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for a housing rehabilitation program.

Council members had been looking for the past few months at pursuing another CDBG to implement a housing rehabilitation program. The city is currently in the final stages of its Sunnyside Up! housing rehabilitation program, which is being funded through a CDBG.

Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell expects the grant monies for the Sunnyside Up! program to be expended by December.

Yakima Valley Conference of Governments (COG) representative Gene Weinmann informed Council that any application for new housing rehabilitation funds would most likely be submitted in mid-November with monies being made available in early spring.

Stockwell brought up some concerns for Council to look at before opting on whether or not to enter into the agreement with COG. He said the city would have to come up with slightly more than $6,100 to apply for the grant with the assistance of COG. Stockwell said the city is incurring some problems with expenses for the current CDBG program. The expenditures for the Sunnyside Up! housing rehabilitation program are coming out of the planning department's budget. But because of some other financial commitments the city is involved with and other budget issues, the planning department's budget will be $91,000 in the red by the end of the year. That figure would rise by the additional $6,100 due to costs associated with applying for the grant. Stockwell also wanted Council to know the city would be committed to matching the $115,000 Weinmann made reference to during the meeting as part of Sunnyside's match for the CDBG funds. Weinmann said the city wouldn't need to come up with the $115,000 match for two years.

Stockwell, however, was concerned with the city making any financial commitment in uncertain economic times. Stockwell told Council he is already expecting next budget year to be a tight one for the city.

The suggestion Stockwell had for the city was to wait a year and look for options to ensure it would have those match funds available for the grant. Stockwell said it would be better for the city to take this stance than end up refusing a grant from the state. Stockwell suggested that if the city does move forward with another housing rehabilitation program that a separate fund is set up to account for any loan payments. Stockwell said right now all repayments go directly into the general fund and are difficult to trace.

Mayor Ed Prilucik agreed with Stockwell's recommendation of waiting a year. Prilucik said the city needs to ensure it has adequate funds for such priority areas as law enforcement and fire services before forging ahead with a housing rehabilitation program.

"We had a tough budget last year," said Prilucik.

Councilman Alex de la Cruz was also concerned about the budget and committing money the city doesn't know if it will have to such a project. de la Cruz said he didn't want to commit the money for the housing rehabilitation program and then find out the city doesn't have the dollars down the road and people have to be fired.

Councilman Bruce Ricks also agreed with Stockwell, saying that the city's expenditures are exceeding revenue streams. Ricks suggested the city wait one year.

Council Don Vlieger went a different avenue, saying he was in favor of pursuing the program because he thought it was good for the city.

"Even if we spend $100,000 it is not like we are throwing money away," said Vlieger.

Vlieger said once the money from the paybacks on the loans for the housing projects comes back the city should start receiving a steady stream of money. He added that the programs should become self-sufficient, actually generating revenue for the city. Vlieger said he would be willing though to go with the direction of Council on the issue.

Council unanimously decided not to pursue funds from the state to start a new housing rehabilitation program.

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

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