SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — Yet another nonprofit group may run this city’s community center.
Officials with the Sunnyside Arts and Sports Association, SASA for short, and the city of Sunnyside are trying to iron out an agreement that would govern the operation of the city’s community center on South First Street and its youth programs.
It’s not new territory for the city, which suffers from administrative turnover and a budget too strapped for a full-time parks and recreation staff. The center was built with grant money in 2001, but the city closed it in 2008 due to lack of funding.
For a few years, the youth nonprofit agency Sunnyside’s Promise operated the center under a city contract, even after some of its startup money from the Sunnyside School District and Sunnyside Community Hospital dried up. However, the city stopped funding Promise at the end of last year, arguing the organization asked for too much money, didn’t track finances properly or make timely reports to city officials.
City Council members at the time vowed to continue operating the center and organizing youth sports and other after-school activities. Sunnyside’s Promise, now funded entirely by grants, has since focused its efforts on combating domestic sex trafficking of minors.
In January, local business owners Tony Hidalgo and Patricia Combs, a member of the city’s parks and recreation commission, began taking on the responsibility of organizing youth sports and staffing the South First Street center on a volunteer basis.
However, residents who use the building for exercise complain about poor maintenance.
Council members at Tuesday’s meeting said they appreciate the enthusiasm of the volunteers but are leery about permanently turning over the keys to city property without oversight. They want a city employee to supervise the agreement to make sure finances are tracked, bathrooms are cleaned and activities are covered by insurance.
“We’ve got to have a city representative there,” Mayor Jim Restucci said.
Hidalgo, 45, said he hopes the city will help provide janitorial services at least, because volunteers burn out.
“I spend hours and hours, cleaning the place for the community,” Hidalgo said.
• Ross Courtney can be reached at 509-930-8798 or firstname.lastname@example.org.