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Group may lose EWU funding

Downtown Cheney Partnership leaders prepare for changes

With the state making cuts in funding at the university level, the Historic Downtown Cheney Partnership, formerly known as Pathways to Progress, may soon lose its funding from Eastern Washington University.

The organization, which is a Main Street Program dedicated to revitalizing the downtown area, receives funding from both EWU and the city of Cheney to pay for its building and its executive director.

This hasn’t come as a surprise to Spencer Grainger, the interim executive director of the program. During the last year or so, Grainger and the board of directors have been working to turn over the program to its volunteers. They have decreased the size of its board and simplified its bylaws to be more flexible and open to interpretation. Grainger said that some of the groups the program has been working with, such as the Farmers Market and the Cheney Merchants Association, have grown to the point of becoming free-standing groups with their own boards of directors and nonprofit status.

They have also been working to strengthen the program’s four committees – groups that meet to discuss ideas for organization, economic restructuring, promotions and design. The committee idea comes from the Main Street Program.

“This is not a normal Main Street Program,” Grainger said. The difference in Cheney from other programs like it is the connection to EWU through funding and students coming in for work-study or volunteer positions.

Grainger said that he and two Eastern staff members approached school President Rodolfo Arévalo to discuss continued use of the office space the program shares with the EWU Surplus store.

Grainger said that if the organization can keep it, he hopes to make the space accessible to groups in Cheney to meet with their members, have access to computers and the copy machine and have room for storage. He’s hoping groups such as the Cheney Museum, the Cheney Merchants Association, the Farmers Market and the Ice Age Flood Institute could use it when the downtown partnership isn’t using it.

“Here’s the chance to have a phone number and a mailbox,” Grainger said.

The organization is awaiting a memorandum of understanding from the university, but Grainger has high hopes it will come through.

“The word of the president is pretty good,” he said.

Grainger also stressed that the many activities of the program are still expected to go on as planned, such as Mayfest, the Cheney Rodeo Days, the public art project and the Friday Farmers Market.

“This change presents the entire Cheney community with an opportunity to work together to continue bringing positive changes to our community’s historic central business district,” said Fred Pollard, the president of the downtown partnership board, in a press release.

While the organization will continue in a different form, its interim executive director expects to start looking for a new job as of June 30. But he stresses that the loss of the partnership with EWU will not mean the end of the organization.

“The mission continues,” Grainger said.

Contact staff writer Lisa Leinberger at (509) 459-5449 or by e-mail at lisal@spokesman.com.
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