SUNNYSIDE — Monday night, Jan. 11, was Mayor Francisco Guerrero’s first meeting of his second year as city leader – a position which has been a challenge since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Still, Guerrero is excited to conduct city business in 2021 with the recent passage of the additional sales tax available to fund the city’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD).

He also expressed pride at the first clean state audit in 14 years, with a strategy to keep moving forward.

“We got a good audit for the past fiscal year. Now we must make sure we continue on that path. It’s a big deal. We put in place a plan to build up our general fund and it finally came to fruition,” Guerrero said.

While it looked as if the budget’s revenue might become strapped last year, the silver lining came when residents – who were homebound due to the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” travel and business restrictions – began shopping online.

“Our revenues were down, but not as bad as they might have been,” Guerrero remarked, explaining that sales tax on online purchases go to the destination point of purchase.

“I’m excited about the fact the voters approved the TBD sales tax. We are looking forward to using some of that money to finish up our Yellowstone Trail project, start the project on Midvale Road, and address city sidewalk trip hazards,” he conveyed.

“We are anxious for the Yellowstone Trail project to be done. I want to be able to give closure to the residents in the Scoon Road, Rohman Street area. It feels like an important part of our community,” he said of the trail.

Guerrero said the Midvale Road project bids should be coming in soon. “We’ll be able use the TBD funds to for matching dollars,” he explained.

With the replacement of the tree along the Yakima Valley Pathway last fall, adding more trees to the city streets is one of several projects Guerrero hopes to see completed in 2021.

The one thing Guerrero hopes that will change going forward is the council’s ability to receive public comment. Since the council began holding virtual meetings, there has been few public comments.

“I know there are members of the council who are eager to begin meeting in persons again,” he noted.

Guerrero said he is pleased the council was able to conduct business without many major hiccups. “I’ve been comfortable with the virtual meetings, telephone conferences and meetings,” Guerrero, who is the Sunnyside Hapo Community Credit Union branch manager.

In addition to the day-to-day business of running a city government, Guerrero is keeping an eye on the lodging tax funding being set aside for improvements at the community center. “We hope at one point to add a convention center to the location,” he stressed. “It’s more of a long-term project, but we don’t want to forget about it.”

“We plan to continue on as we started: safeguarding the taxpayers’ money,” Guerrero said of the council’s responsibilities.

Julia Hart can be reached at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or at jhart@sunnysidesun.com

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