After a delay of nearly three years, leaders of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians and Madera County representatives are getting closer to announcing the recipients of nearly $1 million in community grants to county schools, non-profit organizations and government.
The 2016 grants will be selected from requests submitted for 2014 - requests that were delayed due to internal tribal conflicts and the closing of Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino on Oct. 10, 2014. The casino reopened on Dec. 31, 2015.
Tribal Chairperson Claudia Gonzales and other tribal leaders have held three meetings with Madera County Supervisors Chairman Rick Farinelli and Vice Chairman Max Rodriguez to narrow down the 66 grant requests totaling $4.2 million.
A fourth meeting will be held soon and Farinelli and Rodriguez are optimistic that the selected projects will be announced by the end of the month.
Of the 65 grant requests, 41 totaling nearly $3 million are from District 5 (Eastern Madera County).
There are seven grant requests from District 1 totaling about $400,000, four requests from District 2 for $183,000, 10 requests from District 3 that add up to $406,000, and two requests from District 4 for $160,000.
The largest request comes from the Yosemite Lakes Volunteer Firefighters, who have submitted four grant requests totaling more than $700,000. The requests are for two fire engines, a light rescue truck and a fire breathing support unit.
The Economic Development Corporation of Madera County has applied for $160,000 for a convention center study for Eastern Madera County, the Coarsegold Community Center is asking for $150,000 for repairs and improvements, and Rivergold Elementary School has requested $148,000 for playground equipment.
Other requests for more than $100,000 are from the Indian Lakes Estates Property Owners Association ($135,000), Manna House of Oakhurst ($125,000), Camarena Health ($114,775), and the City of Madera Parks & Community Services ($105,200).
Additional grant requests from the Mountain Area include Sierra Lions Club ($30,000), The Positive Learning Center ($45,700), Sierra Historic Sites Association ($32,350), Children’s Museum of the Sierra ($25,000), American Legion Post 110 ($50,000), Wild Wonderful Women ($35,000), Griswold Detachment 1121 Marine Corps League ($35,000), Friends of Ahwahnee Hills Park ($32,000), Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce Foundation ($25,680), Madera County Film Commission ($40,000), Caring Veterans of America ($35,000), Sierra Senior Center ($50,000), Sierra Ambulance Service ($66,000), Manna House ($125,000), Chawanakee Unifed School District ($60,000), North Fork Elementary School ($54,000), Yosemite High School ($41,300), Oakhurst Community Park ($38,500 for fencing), Golden Chain Theatre ($38,300), and Boys & Girls Club of Oakhurst ($69,000).
Grants last issued in 2013
The last grants announced in late December, 2013, went to 31 county organizations. That year, similar to this year, the announcement of the grants was delayed about seven months due to tribal leadership conflicts. Supervisorial District 5 received 17 grants and District 1 received two, giving Eastern Madera County 19 of the 31 grants totaling $623,000.
Some of the 2013 grant recipients included $60,000 to Coarsegold Elementary School ($60,000 for computers, $49,000 for Chukchansi language program) Eastern Madera County SPCA ($50,000 on a water well for its proposed shelter), Minarets High School ($46,000 for on-campus Native American Cultural Center), Madera County Library ($40,000 for Native American history project), Wild Wonderful Women ($35,000 for pet food bank), Golden Chain Theatre ($31,000 for exterior and interior improvements), and Children’s Museum of the Sierra ($30,000 for facility upgrades).
Also receiving $25,000 in 2013 were the Sierra Senior Center in Oakhurst, the Positive Living Center, the Sierra Historic Sites Association, Friends of the Ahwahnee Hills Regional Park, and the Madera County Film Commission.