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City still eyeing funding request by Sunnyside United

The funding that Sunnyside United requested from the city of Sunnyside for gang prevention and intervention programs this past October as budget talks began is still being considered.

Although the $70,000 requested was not included in the city’s final 2014 budget, more research is being done by the city on how to meet the needs of Sunnyside United.

City Manager Don Day said that he has been told that Yakima County may have some funding available to assist with the program. As a result, he plans to meet with county officials after the start of the year.

“We’ll have a better idea how much, if any, funds the city will have to put into that project after the first of the year,” Day said. “When we had the discussion (in city council meetings), we didn’t have $70,000. At one point, the budget was $80,000 short. We had to work hard to bridge that gap.”

After the city has closed out the books for 2013, Day said there may be unanticipated funds left over, which might be able to go toward some portion of paying for the program. However, he warned that it is possible the city’s finances might go the other direction.

“I don’t want to commit to anything and not have the funds for it,” he said.

Once the city knows how much money, if any, could be used for funding the Sunnyside United project and has more information on exactly how much money would need to be contributed by the city, a decision can be made by the city council on whether or not to go forward.

“Once this information is available the city manager would request a budget amendment to provide the necessary authorization for funding,” said Mayor Jim Restucci.

Both Day and Restucci said the city is still committed to working with Sunnyside United to reduce gang activity in the city.

“The problem isn’t the programs,” said Day. “The problem is that the city is not in great financial condition right now.”

Restucci said the city is committed to providing intervention, prevention and suppression efforts to deal with gang activity, juvenile substance abuse and delinquency, and believes the partnership formed with other city agencies through Sunnyside United offers the best opportunity for success.

Sunnyside United Coordi-nator Cathy Kelley requested the funding at the Oct. 28 city council meeting after learning the organization had not received a grant that would have funded the program through 2014.

Debate by the city council on the funding request led to council members arguing that the money would be better spent in the city’s parks and recreation department and resulted in more attention being paid to the rec department in the budget process.

The city of Sunnyside is a member of Sunnyside Connects, the organization that helped to launch Sunnyside United. Sunnyside United is dedicated to helping citizens of the city through joint efforts of the government, the hospital, businesses and the schools.

The Sunnyside School District, also a member of Sunnyside Connects, has been paying the salary of Kelley and has also funded several prevention programs in the schools. Sunnyside Community Hospital has opened a health clinic on the campus of Sunnyside High School.

The funding the city was asked to provide was to maintain a “bare bones” intervention program while Sunnyside United worked on obtaining grants to continue the program.

Without the funding from the city, Sunnyside United is considering what steps to take next.

“This funding was to support gang prevention and intervention services,” said Kelley. “We will work with partners, the county, school district and city to determine next steps.”

Kelley remains optimistic that funding will be found and the program will be able to continue.

“We may have to suspend some services temporarily, but are working to bridge that gap so we do not have to do that,” she said. “The county will apply for an Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention grant this year, but we are also looking at other funding avenues.”

Day said he will also be looking into other grant opportunities with the hope of finding a solution.

“If the county is willing to help us out, we should be able to help,” he said. “We’ll visit this again.”

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