Yakima County Commissioner Jesse Palacios has always been one for forming partnerships, even during his days as mayor of Grandview.
So when the Sunnyside School District passed a bond/levy this past February that will allow for the construction of a new school in the northeast area outside of Sunnyside, Palacios saw an opportunity he couldn't resist.
Palacios has been spearheading an effort for the past several months to partner with the City of Sunnyside to help upgrade the area in the northeast section of town around Washout and Cemetery roads. Palacios' plan calls for residents in the area, where there is between 75 and 80 homes, to hook-up to City of Sunnyside utilities, eventually annexing into the city.
Palacios asked for a meeting with City of Sunnyside and Sunnyside School District officials last Friday to see what sort of partnership the three entities could form to help make improvements the county commissioner has been aiming for in the area to the northeast of Sunnyside.
Where the school district fits into Palacios' plans is that with the construction of a new middle school, the county commissioner is hoping the school district will help with some of the expenses of extending water lines out to residents in the area. The school district purchased 56 acres for $360,000 to construct a new school, in the area of Washout and Van Belle roads. The property sits just outside of the city limits near Sheller Road.
Last Friday's meeting helped clear up some issues for Sunnyside School District officials.
One of the reasons for the meeting was Mayor Ed Prilucik spoke with Sunnyside School District Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole about some concerns he had with the property the district purchased, which is entirely in Yakima County. Executive Director of Finance Dave Plesha said the mayor was concerned about whether the property fell in the Urban Growth Area of the city.
Plesha said Friday's meeting was a productive one, as the school district learned the city will be willing to connect utilities for the new middle school that will be constructed by 2006. Plesha said the school district will incur a slightly higher rate for water and sewage disposal as a result of being outside of city limits.
Braven Bendzak, director of facilities for the Sunnyside School District, said the city will connect the new district school to its utilities through an outside utilities agreement. Through the city allowing the school district to utilize its wastewater treatment facilities, the property on which the new school is to be built will eventually be annexed into the city, said Bendzak.
Bendzak also said all but 15.8 acres of the 56 acres of property the district purchased falls within the city's Urban Growth Area. Bendzak also said the city is talking with the school district about possibly placing a new water well on the school district property. The city currently operates a well on school district property, alongside the high school football field.
Plesha said while most cities have their schools within city limits, the local school district did nothing out of the ordinary by purchasing property in the county. Plesha said Outlook Elementary School is outside of the city. Plesha also added when the property for Pioneer Elementary School was purchased it was also outside of city limits.
Bendzak said during Friday's meeting, county officials talked about partnering with the school district for improvement work they are looking at doing in the areas of Beckner and McClain roads.
Both Plesha and Bendzak said the school district is open to any sort of partnership with either the city or the county and will be exploring different options down the road.
"We want to make sure what we are trying to do with this new school is what the city and the county is trying to do," said Bendzak. "It is going to be a partnership with everybody involved."
Palacios said he is hoping a partnership can be formed between the three entities to provide a better way of life for people living in that area. Palacios said people there are running a health risk because of the lack of utility services, such as sewer and water. Palacios said there have been reports in some areas in the northeast section of town that septic flow is coming up out of the ground.
Palacios said in the next few weeks there will be another meeting of the different groups involved in the project. Palacios said the next meeting will involve engineers with the project, which he views as a step in the right direction.
"It will be a really neat thing if we can bring some improvement into that area," said Palacios.