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2005 will bring many changes for S'side's parks department

Sunnyside Parks and Recreation Director Tom Byers made what will almost certainly be his last budget presentation to the Sunnyside City Council during its study session on Wednesday night.

As part of cuts in the 2005 budget to help make-up for a $393,910 shortfall, City Manager Bob Stockwell proposed to Council to eliminate Byers' position. The position cut will result in a $25,000 savings for the city.

But Byers found an ally during Wednesday night's study session in Councilman Paul Garcia. Garcia said he would like to comb through the budget to find the $25,000 to keep Byers, saying the position was important to the parks department.

"If we can find the funds as we comb through the budget, I would opt to keep a director," said Garcia.

Prior to discussing Byers' position, Council sifted through the 2005 budget requests for the parks department. An added expense in 2005 is the unforeseen duty to operate the community center next year.

The city will take back control of the community center because the Washington State Migrant Council, which is currently managing the facility, terminated its contract. The city assumes control of the community center Dec. 1. Plans are to locate the parks and recreation department at the community center, said Stockwell.

Why the city is in such a quandary with the community center, said Stockwell, is that under the terms of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) the city obtained for construction of the community center, officials have to keep the building open to the public.

"The difficulty we face here is having this thrust upon us when we really don't have the ability to say no," said Stockwell.

The proposed 2005 budget for the parks department totals $530,270. Operating the community center will add an additional $63,180 in expenses. Stockwell and Finance Director Bud Schatz estimate it will cost the city $73,180 to operate the community center in 2005, but the figure was reduced because the city is using $10,000 it already has available in the budget to operate the facility. The city is anticipating $53,400 in revenue from the community center in 2005.

Parks and rec salaries in 2005 will total $267,160, down from $272,630 in 2004. Under the proposed budget, Byers will lose his position as parks director. This will result in the creation of a parks and recreation coordinator. The city will then hire a recreation assistant.

Stockwell said it was a difficult decision to cut the parks and recreation director position.

Focusing on the community center, Byers explained that to maintain the staffing the Migrant Council has had at the community center, it will cost the city $25,560. Byers said the city could help fund some of those positions by continuing catering services at the center. Byers is speculating the city could raise $12,000 next year in catering.

Councilman Bruce Ricks wanted to look at partnering with the school district to possibly hire someone to oversee the community center and the operation of other venues in the community.

"I feel like all we are going to do at best is keep the doors open at the community center," said Ricks.

Ricks said the problem with the city proposal is that the parks and recreation staff will be busy doing their duties and have no time to operate the center.

Stockwell said one area the Migrant Council was successful in was obtaining volunteers at the community center. Stockwell is hoping to establish a strong volunteer base. Stockwell acknowledged that the next year will be a learning experience for operating the community center.

Mayor Ed Prilucik wanted to continue to look at partnerships, but suggested Council move forward with adopting the proposed budget.

Much like Garcia, Ricks was cautious about having the position of recreation coordinator be in charge of parks and recreation duties. Ricks said he would like to look through the parks budget for extra revenue funds.

Byers ended the evening with a few comments for Council. Byers said he doesn't agree 100 percent with the decision by Stockwell to eliminate his position. Byers nixed a suggestion that he serves as director of the community center. If Council does decide to eliminate his position, Byers told Council that after 17 plus years working as parks director it would be hard for him to relinquish the role.

"It is going to be a challenge, but there are some things I am looking at," said Byers. "I appreciate the opportunity to have worked for the City of Sunnyside."

There are two other areas that fall within the parks and recreation budget-the Sunnyside Museum and the Sunnyside Senior Center. These two items are reviewed as separate budget areas.

The city was able to free up some extra money after relinquishing control of the library to the Yakima Regional Library System.

Maintenance and custodial work for the local library fell under control of the Sunnyside parks department.

As a result of giving up operation of the library, Stockwell in the 2005 preliminary budget spread around the duties of the custodian that cleaned the library. This results in a little less than $4,000 salary increase for the custodian cleaning the museum.

The budget for the Sunnyside Senior Center, which is also a separate item from the actual parks and recreation budget, will see a minimal increase in its 2005 budget because of additional custodial work. The proposed budget for the senior center in 2005 is $15,600, up from $12,810 in 2004.

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