After much discussion last week at the Cheney City Council meeting, the city will extend its contract with Pathways to Progress, a program that works with both Eastern Washington University and the city to help revitalize the downtown core.
City Administrator Arlene Fisher and Community Development Director Brian Jennings presented to the council arguments to extend the contract.
Fisher said the sinking economy throughout the country hasn’t quite hit the city yet, but she feels that keeping Pathways will help the city in the year to come.
“I refuse to let it (the economy) play out in Cheney in a negative way,” she told the council.
She added that Pathways is in a state of transition right now after the retirement of its former director, Charlie Dobson, last year. She said she attends the meetings as a representative of the city and Jennings is now serving as vice president of the board of directors. The two plan to set benchmarks for Pathways so the city can see what it is getting for its financial contribution – $15,000 – to the program.
“I think the key concern that we’ve heard is the accountability question,” Jennings said.
Councilman Doug Nixon restated that concern to Jennings and Fisher.
“Where is this money going?” Nixon asked. “It sounds like EWU has control of it.”
Jennings and Fisher stated he board of directors of Pathways decides how its funds will be used, not the university.
Councilman Curt Huffsaid he appreciates the work Pathways has done with the farmers’ market and development in downtown Cheney, but he has concerns about sending the check to Eastern as well.
Councilman Annette Mather was concerned the program only benefited the downtown core of the city, not the businesses outside of that area. She felt that it should benefit Cheney as a whole.
But Fred Pollard, owner of Cheney Delights and board president of Pathways, said since Pathways is part of the Main Street USA program, it can only benefit downtown. The Cheney Merchants Association benefits all businesses in Cheney.
The council voted to pass the resolution to extend the contract, with members Nixon and Huff opposing the resolution.
On a different topic at last week’s meeting, which was held Nov. 12 to accommodate for the Veterans Day holiday, the council heard the third of four public hearings about the 2009 budget.
Fire Chief Mike Winters presented his needs.
“Training is the main focus of the 2009 budget for the department,” he told the council.
He wants to make sure that all of his first responders are fully knowledgeable about the latest ways to effectively and safely do their jobs.
Winters also said that its personal protective equipment is 10 years old and proposed buying three new sets every year to replace the older ones.
Parks and Recreation director Paul Simmons opened his presentation with a slide show of the programs his department offers while he played the song, “If I Had a Million Dollars,” by the Barenaked Ladies.
He then talked about the accomplishments of 2008 for the department and discussed goals for next year.
The master plan of Betz Park will soon be up for approval by the council and the department will be looking for partnerships, grants and other means to fund the construction.
He would like to increase the park maintenance staff and purchase a new lawnmower as well.
Simmons also said that the department is still looking for funds to purchase a new wheelchair accessible van to transport seniors and other park patrons to different programs in the community.
There was no action taken after the public hearing and the final public hearing will be held at the council’s next regular meeting Tuesday.