Chukchansi community grants delayed

Tribal politics have postponed the awarding of $1 million

editor@sierrastarSeptember 10, 2013 

— The anxious county-wide schools, organizations and government agencies who have applied for a portion of the $1 million in Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians Community Grants will have to wait a bit longer to know if they are on the approved list.

Last year the grants were announced on May 1 at a Madera County Board of Supervisors meeting. This year, due to tribal leadership conflicts, meetings with county supervisors and staff were delayed or postponed several times by tribal representatives.

Tribal leaders and county officials are expected to discuss the selections in October.

Last year, nine of 24 grants awarded were for the Mountain Area totaling $408,000.

Nearly 100 grants requests from throughout the county, totaling more than $7 million, were submitted for consideration prior to the March 1 deadline.

Originally, the awards dinner at the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino was scheduled for May 23. A new date for the awards dinner has not been announced.

Twenty-one of the grant requests made this year are between $100,000 to $150,000 including the Tiny Acorn of the Picayune Rancheria ($150,000), Oakhurst Elks Lodge Disaster Center ($146,000), Madera County district attorney's office for a back-file conversion project ($142,500), Madera High School for a robotics regional competition ($141,750), Cornerstone Family Counseling Service of Oakhurst for equipment and crisis intervention ($140,000), Madera County Fire Department for training ($139,000), Spring Valley Elementary School for "math counts" program ($139,000), Madera Community Hospital for birthing beds ($130,000) and the Coarsegold Community Park ($125,000).

In the past six years, county school districts lead the benefactors of grants with a combined six year total of $1.6 million. The Yosemite Unified School District has received $462,573 in grant funds and the Madera Unified School District has collected $408,100. Other districts six year total include Chowchilla Elementary ($246,000), Bass Lake Joint Union ($217,198), Chawanakee ($140,000). Alview Dairyland ($57,000), Golden Valley ($49,000), Raymond-Knowles ($25,000) and Sherman Thomas Charter School ($25,000).

County medical facilities who have benefited over the past six years are Children's Hospital Central California ($421,069), Madera Community Hospital ($202,000) and Camarena Health Centers ($114,696).

Nancy Ayala, a leader of one faction of the tribe, said the delay is due to complex litigation the tribe is currently going through.

"We will continue to be good neighbors and to help the community in every way possible," Ayala said in a prepared statement. "We've had a pair of meetings with the county supervisors on the grant program and we continue to move forward processing more than $7 million in grant applications. But before grants can be awarded this year, we need to ensure that we have our house in order and that we can give the grant program the attention and resources it requires. That's what's behind this temporary delay."

Since 2007, the tribe has been awarding grants to government, schools and non-profit organizations through a cooperative agreement with the county. The program will continue for another three years.

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