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Sparks fly at parks and recreation board meeting

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Board member Trish Combs speaks at the Sunnyside Board of Parks & Recreation meeting last night. In the background is board chair Dorothy Aiken.

Discussions became heated Wednesday afternoon at the Sunnyside Board of Parks & Recreation during an update on recreation programs run by the Sunnyside Arts and Sports Association.

The Sunnyside Arts and Sports Association is registered as a non-profit corporation in the state of Washington, but is not yet listed as having 501(c)(3) status by the IRS. The city's recreation programs are run by the corporation at no cost to the city.

Parks and Recreation board member Trish Combs is the co-president of the association along with Antonio Hildalgo. Both were present at the meeting.

Hildalgo told the group that the association has more than 500 children signed up for youth outdoor soccer from all around the valley. He said there is a problem with not having enough fields but that can be fixed by making a deal for the use of school district fields during the summer.

Board chair Dorothy Aiken expressed concern that the program was open to children from other communities besides Sunnyside. With the fields in town being used to capacity, she wondered if the association is properly serving the children of Sunnyside.

Combs said the concern about field space is valid, but the association is trying to be open to all and is trying to bring in families that spend money in Sunnyside, providing economic help to the town.

"I'm not as much concerned about out-of-town kids as I am about capacity," noted Public Works Superintendent Shane Fisher. "I'm concerned about not having enough fields."

Combs reassured the board that arrangements are being made with the school district. She also noted that the association is caring for the fields and cleaning them up after events.

"People need to be educated on respect for the facilities," she said. She also mentioned that the toilets at Sunnyview Park had been fixed, but said she ended up having to clean them because of low flow issues.

Hildalgo then broke in to say that Sunnyside isn't seen as being a welcoming community because of attitudes like those of the board members. Aiken and vice-chair Roberto Sarmiento both objected to the statement, saying the purpose of the board is to look out for taxpayers' interests.

Combs then asked board members to come to events and volunteer. Hildalgo said members of the board haven't been seen helping. He said there's a feeling that the board doesn't care.

Both Aiken and Sarmiento were offended by the statement, with both of them noting their years of volunteering in the community, including Aiken's 20 years as an unpaid Red Cross instructor at the pool.

Aiken decided to move the meeting on to the next item, but Combs asked to finish the update on the recreation programs.

Aiken relented, and Combs moved on to discussion of the pool and how the association has been getting requests from the public about it. Combs said the association is not in charge of the pool and asked where to direct the calls.

Fisher said the pool does not yet have a manager and Aiken said an informational brochure will be sent out at the beginning of May to residents.

The board then moved on to discussion of the city's playgrounds. Fisher said that a flier had been placed in mailboxes around town that asked for assistance in getting playground equipment installed at Don Hughes and Upland parks and had Fisher's name on it. Fisher said he has no idea who created the flier and said the information in it was incorrect.

"Whoever did it committed about 1,500 federal offenses by putting those in mailboxes," he said. "People thought they came from the city. They didn't."

Fisher told the board that the budget to update the playground equipment at the parks had been slashed. He said that Don Hughes Park was next on the list, but it could not be done without money.

In addition, he said playground updates are usually done during the winter because the single person employed by the city to maintain the parks doesn't have time to do the work in the summer.

The meeting ended with a short discussion about the pool and a mention from Combs of a golf clinic to be put on by the association she co-chairs at Black Rock Creek Golf Course on Saturday, May 4.

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