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Re-establishing parks and rec department under consideration by Sunnyside City Council

Parks and Recreation Commission members last night presented to the Sunnyside City Council a proposal for a parks and recreation coordinator.

The proposal, said Commission Chair Kari Zapata, is the result of many discussions between the commissioners, as well as conferring with the Grandview Parks and Recreation Director Mike Carpenter and Assistant Gretchen Chronis.

"We recommend a small-scale approach," said Zapata.

The position the commission recommends would be budgeted at approximately $70,000 annually, which would include the coordinator's salary and benefits.

Zapata said a coordinator should focus on sports and recreation programs, arts and cultural activities, leadership development, and wellness and personal development.

The commission believes programs organized by a parks and recreation coordinator could include organized open gym activities, activities for youngsters (three to 12-years-old) like tumbling and t-ball, arts activities for youth and seniors, senior center activities and special event coordination. The coordinator would also communicate and coordinate efforts with youth programs like Cal Ripken Baseball, Grid Kid football and cheerleading and the youth soccer program.

Zapata said there are long-term goals for offering quality programs and the commission believes parks and rec could provide activities that introduce low-cost, beginner experiences for residents in Sunnyside.

She said the city still possesses much of the equipment that is needed for recreation programs, which offsets some of the costs associated with organizing them.

"I spent two hours with Mike and Gretchen developing the proposal. They said for years they envied the programs Sunnyside had," said Zapata, explaining the tables are turned because Sunnyside no longer has a parks and recreation department.

She said Grandview's programs are also made possible because of parents, volunteers and grant funding.

City Manager Mark Gervasi said he would like to work with Zapata to develop a plan that can be budgeted in Sunnyside for February or March of 2012.

Council members queried Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson about the grant opportunities that might be available to Sunnyside.

He said there are many grant programs and Sunnyside must have in place long-term plans to qualify for grant funding.

"You're looking at a couple of months to recruit a coordinator and, by coincidence, we are looking at the start of the year readiness," said Olson.

Zapata told the council participation fees and sponsorships could also be a means of offsetting costs of various programs.

The community center would be the best location for the coordinator, as well, she said.

Councilman Don Vlieger said he appreciates the work that went into developing the proposal.

"Parks and rec programs reach kids other organizations don't reach," he said.

Gervasi told the council he believes an outline of programs and budgetary needs for a coordinator can be prepared before the Monday, Sept. 12, council meeting.

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