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Councilmen discuss agenda for meeting with lawmakers

It may not be an extreme makeover, but the Sunnyside City Council is pushing for a facelift of the downtown core.

That was one of the priorities council discussed last night in preparation for a breakfast meeting held this morning with the Lower Valley legislative contingent.

The city will ask legislators to approve $2 million to install new curbs, gutters, sidewalks and lighting in downtown Sunnyside.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said the improvements would make the downtown "more viable" and appealing to potential new business owners and investors.

The proposal echoes a call for state funding of downtown revitalization voiced by other cities in the state.

Other legislative priorities discussed included addressing the sentencing reform in the state's law and justice system, specifically calling for tougher penalties for car theft and residential burglary.

Mayor Ed Prilucik noted the example of a motorist stopped by police on the west side of the state who was "carrying an arsenal" of weapons and had 10 prior convictions. "That's $550,000 spent rehabilitating that person," Prilucik said of the now 11th trial the person will face, with each one averaging a cost of $50,000.

Councilman Bruce Epps also noted the social cost of having offenders repeatedly released back into the community to cause potential harm.

While supportive of tougher measures, Councilman Paul Garcia noted that providing more jail time would require the state to provide more jail space for prisoners.

Warning the U.S. could again return to having "one telephone company," Mayor pro tem Jim Restucci-who owns an internet company in Sunnyside-suggested council add opposition to statewide or national franchising of telecommunication services to its priority list.

As it currently stands, individual cities such as Sunnyside are responsible for issuing franchises to permit telephone, cable, internet and other telecommunication companies to access their rights-of-way. It's a process that brings revenue into the city, and ensures that utility providers will serve the entire city, not just choice portions.

According to Restucci and City Manager Bob Stockwell, the large telecommunication companies are pushing for one state or national agency to decide all franchising issues for all towns.

"It's our right-of-way, our infrastructure," Stockwell said.

Councilman Bruce Epps added that a possible move to centralize all franchise discussions "would be disastrous" for cities.

Also brought up for discussion with local legislators is a call on lawmakers to have prisoners cover their own medical costs, other than injury or illness brought on by negligence while a prisoner is in jail.

Sunnyside will also join the Yakima Valley Mayor's Association in calling for sustainable funding for law and justice issues.

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