News

Y contribution proposal rejected by county

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


 


The YMCA of Washington County?s plan to build a new Washington branch has been deemed a worthy project by the Washington County Supervisors, but that doesn?t mean the county will be contributing any more taxpayer money to the building.


On Tuesday, the supervisors unanimously voted against contributing $20,000 of taxpayer money to the project. During the meeting, supervisors recounted conversations they?d had with constituants about the proposal.


Supervisor Stan Stoops said that he received many phone calls about the project and the callers were about even for and against. Supervisor Richard Young said the calls he received were about 5-1 against giving the contribution.


?I have looked for someone who does not belong to the Y who will tell me they are fine with their tax money going to this project and I have yet to hear one,? supervisors Jack Seward Jr. said.


During the June 12 meeting, the Y had requested the $20,000 contribution to help secure an Enhance Iowa grant, which would come from state gaming taxes, for the new building. Y officials reported they had $7.9 million toward the $9.2 million project total. The plan would be in July to request $900,000 from Enhance Iowa, the state?s Community Attraction and Tourism grant program. The supervisors? contribution, if it have been approved, would have come from the county?s general fund.


During discussion, supervisors cited the need for a new health building and a new safety center as reasons to reject the request. Supervisor Abe Miller said these are things people need, while the Y is more something that people want.


YMCA interim CEO Amy Schulte said the Y board was aware of the budget constraints the supervisors are under and that she is not entirely surprised by the outcome. She said the Y will continue to move ahead.


?I think we can make a case to Enhance Iowa that it just wasn?t in the County Board of Supervisors? budget at this time and they need to use their funds elsewhere and hopefully we can still be successful with Enhance Iowa,? she said.


Previously, the supervisors had rejected a request for $50,000 funding for the Y project, after earlier approving a $10,000 contribution to be made over three years in March 2015. This contribution was part of an Enhance Iowa, formerly Vision Iowa, grant to show community support.


Seward referenced a letter the supervisors had written to Vision Iowa saying the supervisors would not increase the contribution and felt as if it was extortion to require a county to pay to get its own gaming revenues back.


On Aug. 2, 2016, City of Washington voters rejected by close to a 3-1 ratio a referendum for the city to bond for $3 million for the building project, which at the time was a $10.4 million project.


In May 2017, the YMCA of Washington County Board unveiled a new design for a building to replace the existing 92-year-old building located in the 100 block of East Main Street. A feasibility study on the facility found program spaces were too small for the growing membership and that there were several structural problems with the building. According to the survey, the building itself is structurally sound, but not Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. The Y Board determined it would be more cost-effective to build a new building than to try to renovate the existing building.


The Y Board started a fundraising campaign called ?Y ? For a Better Us,? to pay for the construction. The phased building plan is to complete a Phase 1 building with a $3 million Phase 2 addition as soon as fundraising efforts make it possible. The building?s design can also be expanded to include a third phase as well as other future expansions as needed. The plan is downsized from a previous $10.4 million plan.


Phase 1 of the project includes a full-size high school gymnasium ? with spectator area ? wellness center, two exercise rooms, youth room and senior gaming area. The entrance will be on West Sixth Street and North D Avenue, which would alleviate concerns of children having to cross the busy West Third to get to the facility.


A six-lane swimming pool is planned for Phase 2 of the project. While the Y board and staff understand the need for a pool, Schulte said in a previous interview, the result of input from the community was for the pool to be in the second phase of the project.


Recently the Y was awarded $3.5 million by the Washington County Riverboat Foundation for the project. Y interim CEO Amy Schulte told The Journal in April she expected to break ground at the building site located on West Fifth Street and North D Avenue this summer.


More information on the project can be found online at www.buildwashingtonymca.com.


The new building is slated to be constructed in the city?s wellness park and will be a ?hub for sports tournaments and fitness activities.?