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PARC evaluates community grants for first time
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The transition of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau contract from the hands of the Chamber of Commerce to the City of Turlock is being actualized as evidenced by the Parks, Arts, and Recreation Commission meeting on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s meeting was a transitional one as the commissioners received presentations from seven different organizations and event leaders applying for Community Grants Program money. The grant money is generated by the Transportation Occupancy Tax that the City receives when individuals stay at local hotels. Prior to just a few months ago, the Chamber was in charge of the CVB which is a tourism entity in Turlock taxed with administering the community grants. In March the Turlock City Council appointed the Parks, Arts, and Recreation Commission as the new committee to make a recommendation to Council who holds the final decision making power.

“The goal is that the community feels that the money is being used transparently and for its intended purpose,” said Director of Parks, Recreation, and Public Facilities Allison Van Guilder.

The applicants requesting various amounts include the following: $8,000 for 4th of July Fireworks at California State University, Stanislaus; $3,000 for the 4th of July Patriotic Parade; $5,000 for the Turlock Community Theater; $3,000 for the Stanislaus County Fair; $3,500 for the 2015 Monster Truck Spring Nationals; $5,000 for the 2015 Central Valley Brewfest; and $2,500 for the 2015 Central Valley Vinofest.

Commissioners are able to request that the event be awarded more or less than the requested amounts based upon the benefit the event will give the Turlock community economically and in terms of quality of life.

“The idea of the lesser or more amount allows the commission to determine if the event is meeting the expectation because if they don’t feel the amount is hitting the target set by council they can adjust it,” said Van Guilder.

While the commissioners unanimously agreed to award the Fourth of July Fireworks, Fourth of July Patriotic Parade, Turlock Community Theater, and Stanislaus County Fair their requested amount, the other events were met with conflicting opinions.

The Monster Truck Spring Nationals received a split vote of two “no” and two “yes” as there were only four commissioners present. Michael Dowd recused himself from the meeting since there was a conflict of interest as he sits on the Turlock Community Theater Board of Directors. Both commissioners that voted “no” felt that the event should be awarded less than the $3,000 requested.

The Central Valley Brewfest was also met with split interest as two commissioners voted to award the event a lesser amount than was requested. Commissioner Larry Yeakel was the only one who voted to award the Vinofest zero funds while the other three commissioners voted yes to the $2,500.

“It’s just the imagery of Turlock we’re promoting as a committee and that’s what we’re protecting. I don’t have anything against their process but I don’t think we should be giving them money,” said Larry Yeakel.

Wednesday was the first time that the commission handled the Community Grants Program, a process that will be refined to meet the unique needs determined by the council in future months. Since the applications were generated by the CVB while under the Chamber’s charge, the City gained control of the process mid-way through the cycle. In the future, the application and process will be refined to reflect the interest of the Turlock City Council said Van Guilder.

“We’re definitely in transition at this point,” said Van Guilder.