Supervisors move ahead with plan to use future YMCA as emergency shelter

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


While there was no formal memorandum of understanding to use the YMCA of Washington County?s proposed Washington facility as an emergency shelter for the Washington County Board of Supervisors to consider, there is no building yet either, which gives both entities plenty of time to consider the plan.

During the regular Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Sept. 11, the board expressed support, but took no action on, support to move ahead with the plan, During discussion the board added the idea of also using the Y?s facilities in Kalona and Wellman as well. The board also approved a correspondence with Enhance Iowa committing to assist the Y in getting a grant to install a generator system in the new building so it can act as an emergency shelter. Supervisor Abe Miller opposed the action. During a previous meeting, he said the constituents he has spoken to say he should continue voting to save taxpayers money.

?The important thing is the conversations are going and we have heard from Y board members who say they are willing to do and are looking forward to (becoming emergency shelters). Emergency management sees it as a plus and I see it as a plus also,? supervisor Jack Seward Jr. said.

Seward told the other supervisors that County Emergency Management Coordinator Marissa Reisen has had discussions with Y officials regarding the use of the buildings. He also said county attorney John Gish has approved the plan, saying it is a workable situation.

Supervisors Bob Yoder and Richard Young both discussed the use of the Wellman and Kalona facilities with Kalona City Administrator Ryan Slaubaugh, who wants the north side facilities to be included under one memorandum of intent. Y interim executive director Amy Schulte had no objections.

?This would just increase the reach we have in the county and services we can provide,? Schulte commented. ?We might as well get all of them done.?

Slaubaugh said the memo would be a good option, saying the numbers of people who could be served during an emergency is huge and that having the asset in a time of need is a plus.

During discussion of the correspondence to Enhance Iowa, which states the county will assist the Y in the installation of the generator up to $5,000, Seward said the letter appears to be the next step. He said the partnership being discussed would benefit the county as a whole.

?I don?t see this as any type of charitable donation and I see this as getting something of tremendous value for the whole county,? he said.

Young said the area needs an emergency shelter, which would provide basic needs like food, water and shelter if their home is damaged in a disaster. Reisen commented there are no facilities in the City of Washington the emergency management agency has an agreement with that has a generator.