Last updated: September 06. 2013 8:10PM - 74 Views

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Delaware residents were mostly supportive after a Wednesday evening meeting about a merger between the Central Ohio YMCA and city recreation department.

About 30 city residents and staff and YMCA officials attended a question and answer session Wednesday in the Hilborn meeting room at Mingo Park, which was set by Delaware City Council as a way to garner feedback from the public on whether residents would be in favor of the YMCA taking over the recreation side of the city’s parks and rec department.

City Mayor Gary Milner, who also serves on the parks and recreation advisory board, shared his personal experience in learning about the possibility of a merger. At first, Milner said he was vehemently opposed to the idea. After listening to the proposal and asking many questions, the idea started to make more sense to him.

His primary questions were based on keeping fees the same, offering access to everyone and keeping some sort of oversight once a merger would take place, he said.

The YMCA’s proposal accomplishes all that and is thought to save between $70,000, according to the report by YMCA Vice President of District Operations Paul Weber, who had been studying the city’s parks and recreation department operations to determine whether the partnership would be feasible.

Since the city already subsidizes its recreation department with about $300,000 a year, and the YMCA can operate it for about $200,000, there’s a savings for the city. The preliminary YMCA contract does propose that the city pay a management fee of about $205,000.

Parks and recreation advisory board chairman Don Shannon asked if the savings would be diverted to the parks side of the budget.

With the city awaiting potential funding decreases from the state Local Government Fund, City Councilwoman Lisa Keller, who attended the meeting, said she wasn’t ready to commit any potential savings until she saw the entire 2012 budget.

Toward the meeting’s end, Councilman Chris Jones asked the crowd if they were in favor of the proposal. Most of the attendees raised their hands.

Discussions on a partnership began after the exit of former parks and recreation director Darren Hurley and the pending construction and opening of the Delaware Community Center YMCA on South Houk Road this fall.

Current city recreation staff members would be given the option to apply and interview for the YMCA recreation positions and, if hired, would be considered YMCA employees. Community members at Wednesday’s meeting were concerned about the Delaware city employees and if they would just be out of a job.

Weber said that all city employees would be offered an opportunity to apply for open positions at the center.

As part of the YMCA’s proposal, it would hire a city/YMCA director who would oversee operations at both the community center and Mingo Park, as well as an aquatics/program director to oversee the pools at the same locations.

The current proposal states that the YMCA would do minor maintenance; the pool would still be owned by the city, so it would be responsible for larger maintenance costs, such as if a pump went out.

The YMCA would also hire directors for membership; fitness; adult and youth sports; family, teens and youth and facilities, who could also program and supervise both city facilities at the community center and Mingo Park.

Two customer payment scales would be developed: one for YMCA members and program members at the community center and the other for residents and nonresidents at traditional city events.

The report proposes that beginning Jan. 1, 2012, all previously city, non-aquatic programs would be operated by the YMCA utilizing the city’s current fees. Youth basketball would be the first collaborative program between the city and the YMCA, in which registration and scheduling would happen at the community center.

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