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Budget constraints leave city parks in state of flux

Sunnyside municipal pool to open June 13

The Sunnyside pool will open on schedule and porta potties will replace the bathrooms at city parks this spring.

That was part of an update the Sunnyside City Council received last night on plans for managing the parks this spring and summer.

Monday night's announcement took into consideration council's decision last fall to limit park spending to "window dressing" due to budget constraints.

The pool will open on June 13 for the summer season and close around mid-August. The costs for using the pool will remain the same as last year.

As for renting porta potties, City Manager Eric Swansen said they will be a cost savings over the labor and materials Sunnyside was spending each day in maintenance of the existing restroom facilities, as well as repairs needed due to vandalism.

Public Works Director Jim Bridges said his staff has seen restrooms that have had the hinges taken off a day after the doors were installed. He said the bathrooms have also been bombed and burned.

In other park updates, the community center will remain closed, though Swansen said the Boys and Girls Club in Prosser has indicated a desire to re-open the center.

There was some disagreement about the status of Sunnyview Park, which city officials want to keep closed to visitors until May 1 to allow the turf to fully recover for heavy use in late spring and through the summer.

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock noted, though, that a softball tournament is planned for this month and those who want to frequent the park for other uses besides sports, like picnics, are being forced to park on the side of Yakima Valley Highway.

"Where did the policy decision come from to keep the park locked at Sunnyview?" she asked. "I understand we're not putting a whole lot into turf management, but these are our parks and people. People are parking on Yakima Valley Highway and jumping the chain." Hancock added, "It does not sound like a good policy to me."

Bridges said the decision to lock the park was made as a way to preserve the turf.

During the public comment period, there was further frustration vented because it took four weeks for city officials to decide to veto a proposed youth soccer program that would have brought 200 participants to town last weekend. On the same weekend, though, a softball tourney was held.

Swansen suggested the city will have a "first-come, first-serve" policy when it comes to park use. However, some inconsistencies there include offering reservations on a fee-basis for past users of the parks.

Mayor Paul Garcia also noted that when there is a large group, a first come, first serve basis may not work.

Hancock asked for city staff to present information at a future meeting that outlines who will be using the parks on a reservation basis and what those fees will be.

Councilman Bill Gant asked staff to explore what it would to take to propose a parks district on the ballot as a way to better manage the city's park system.

"We as council have to quit assuming people don't want to pay for things," he said. "Put something on a ballot. If the people want those things they'll vote for them."

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