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Council expresses concerns with Chamber

The Sunnyside City Council held the first of its annual budget study sessions Tuesday night, but someone forgot to tell the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce about the get-together.

The chamber was scheduled to make its annual presentation to Council for funding in 2005. The city allocates funding to the chamber out of tourism tax dollars.

In the 2005 budget draft, the city has $40,000 allocated for the local chamber of commerce. The money in the tourism fund is raised through a hotel/motel tax and is specifically earmarked to promote tourism.

But due to a communication snafu on the city's part, the chamber was not present at last night's meeting. Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell said he would try to schedule the chamber during one of the coming budget sessions.

Despite chamber officials not being present, several Council members didn't let the moment pass and voiced some concerns they have with the chamber and its activities.

The main thrust of Tuesday night's conversation dealt with Sunshine Days, which the chamber significantly downsized this past year.

Councilman Jim Restucci said he would like to find a way to help Sunshine Days with tourism dollars. Restucci said he believes Sunshine Days is an important part of the community that should be promoted.

Stockwell replied by saying Council and the chamber need to discuss that situation more in-depth.

Mayor Ed Prilucik wanted to look at the agreement with the chamber in two different areas. The mayor said first there was the budget portion of the contract Council needs to look at, and then the actual agreement.

Prilucik said based on what happened with the chamber and community events in 2004, he wanted to see a list of activities the chamber had planned for 2005. Council agreed with Prilucik's request.

"I think the Council was really caught off guard when the chamber decided to not have Sunshine Days," said Prilucik.

Councilman Don Vlieger noted some personal concerns he has with the local chamber. Vlieger said he doesn't see much, if any, business at his downtown bed and breakfast inn from community events sponsored by the Sunnyside chamber. Vlieger went on to say that his inn is full from Prosser events and even some Grandview community activities. Vlieger said as the owner of an inn, he should be seeing more return from the local chamber. Vlieger said he and other hotel/motel owners agreed to charge an additional tax to generate the tourism funds that go towards funding the chamber.

Prilucik and Restucci agreed with Vlieger's point. Restucci said that many Upper Valley events promote tourism and Sunnyside should be looking at ways to attract those same tourists to the community.

Councilman Bruce Ricks said he wanted to see the chamber promote use of the Centennial Square more and work with downtown businesses as chamber officials had promised.

"We have got some questions to ask (of the chamber)," said Ricks.

Stockwell said he will be talking with chamber officials about Council concerns.

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