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Migrant Council opts out of operation of S'side community center

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The Washington State Migrant Council will be returning management of the Sunnyside Community Center back to the City of Sunnyside as of Nov. 30.

It was supposed to be a five-year contract, but the Washington State Migrant Council's (WSMC) management of the Sunnyside Community Center didn't even make it a year.

Cristina Klatovsky has been overseeing the operation of the community center for WSMC since the organization took over management at the beginning of April. She said the last day WSMC will be managing the center is Nov. 30. At that time, WSMC will turn back operations of the community center to the city.

WSMC notified the city of its intent to terminate its contract to operate the community center in a letter dated Oct. 29.

Klatovsky said there are a couple of reasons why WSMC is terminating its contract with the city. She said first, WSMC is about $31,000 in the hole in operating the community center. Klatovsky said WSMC understood entering the contract that it would probably take upwards of three to five years to start making money.

"We knew from the beginning we would have to make a considerable financial contribution," said Klatovsky.

Klatovsky, though, said WSMC didn't see much of a chance to gain back some of its lost money based on the relationship that was developing with city officials.

"My boss needs to know (we) will be given a chance," said Klatovsky. "There is no certainty we will recoup (financial losses) in five years."

Klatovsky said it is hard for WSMC to keep incurring expenses with the community center without some sort of assurances from city officials that the two agencies would be able to work more constructively together.

She said WSMC has had some problems with the city in trying to form a partnership to obtain grants to help fund the center. Klatovsky said the city was reluctant to partner on grant opportunities. She said WSMC also had difficulty with the city in operating a United States Department of Agriculture funded summer meal program for children.

Despite terminating the contract with the city, Klatovsky remains proud of the accomplishments WSMC had with the community center.

She said in the beginning when the community center opened many could have mistaken it for a youth center. She said the center opened during spring break and it attracted many youths. Klatovsky felt that was alright because the center was designed to help serve youths. Klatovsky has on file 300 youths who have utilized the community center.

The center, though, quickly evolved into other uses, said Klatovsky.

One of the purposes of the center under the management of WSMC, said Klatovsky, was that it would provide programs with an emphasis on youth, but it would also serve other areas in the community not being met. Klatovsky said WSMC wanted to offer programs not already being offered in the community.

"If something wasn't being offered that is where we fit in," said Klatovsky.

The community center has served as home to a variety of activities, including nutrition courses being offered for children by the Washington State University co-operative extension program. Alcoholics Anonymous Area 92 has also used the community center for its meetings, as well as the Lower Yakima County Rural Enterprise Community board of directors.

In the month of August, more than 1,100 youths and adults used the community center for a variety of programs. That number increased to nearly 1,400 youths and adults in October. The Sunnyside Youth Coalition has also been working with parents and each of the schools at the center to help youths with tutoring. Klatovsky has a long list of other services that have been provided at the community center, including Yakima County poll worker training and Lion's Club meetings.

One purpose of the community center was that it was supposed to be rented out to cater to different events.

"We have done some rentals," said Klatovsky.

She explained that WSMC hasn't been able to rent the community center as much as it hoped because of alcohol restrictions and hours of operation restrictions put in place by the Sunnyside City Council.

Klatovsky said the experience of operating the community center has been a rewarding one for her.

"It has been so much fun," she said.

Klatovsky added that WSMC was able to reach out to different factions of the community. She spoke proudly of the diversity of people and groups that have used the community center.

"It didn't matter who came through the door," said Klatovsky. "I believe we have set the tone."

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