YMCA, city hammer out deal
$3 million funding plan will likely go
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
In an abrupt turn of events this week, the
city of Ketchum and the Wood Community YMCA reached tentative terms on a
proposal for the city to help fund the YMCA’s proposed $16 million recreation
facility and community center.
Ketchum resident Larry Young has
been critical of the city’s contemplation of funding options for the proposed
Wood River Community YMCA. Express photo by David N. Seelig
At the onset of a special meeting Monday,
May 17, Ketchum City Council President Randy Hall announced that the city
intends to abandon consideration of a controversial plan for the YMCA to take
over the city’s recreation department.
"Consolidation is off the table," he said.
Instead, Hall and other council members
tentatively agreed the city should seek to honor the terms of a 2003 City
Council resolution to provide the YMCA with $3 million, if city voters consent.
Ultimately, the specific terms of how the
city could fund the YMCA’s proposed complex were not finalized. The council,
however, showed a strong inclination to put before city voters a $3 million
funding proposal that would give the YMCA $300,000 for 10 years, in exchange for
partial ownership of any facility that is built.
The special meeting Monday was prompted by
an April 21 proposal by the YMCA to take over operation of the city’s recreation
programs and collect for 10 years the Parks and Recreation Department’s entire
$450,000 annual budget.
The YMCA intended to leverage the money to
help finance a state-of-the-art, 85,000-square-foot community complex with a
swimming pool, climbing wall, fitness center and ice rink.
The facility is planned for the city’s
Park and Ride Lot, at the corner of Warm Springs and Saddle roads.
The city has already agreed to lease a
portion of the 5.8-acre Park and Ride Lot to the YMCA for $1 per year.
The YMCA is planning to offer family
memberships to Blaine County residents for approximately $80 per month.
Attorney Ed Lawson, right, with YMCA
board member Tom Praggastis, this week urged the City Council to follow
through on a 2003 resolution to help fund the YMCA’s proposed $16 million
community complex. Express photo by David N. Seelig
The April YMCA financing proposal was put
forth as an alternative to a funding plan outlined in a 2003 city resolution.
That plan called for pursuing a $3 million revenue bond.
In discussions Monday, council members and
Mayor Ed Simon indicated they would not seek a $3 million revenue bond, which
would require approval by at least two-thirds of city voters.
Instead, the panel suggested, the city
would hold an advisory election to determine if a simple majority of Ketchum
voters support allocating $300,000 directly from the city budget for 10
Ed Lawson, attorney for the Ketchum-based
YMCA group, said the proposal to take over the city’s recreation programs was
issued only because the YMCA believed the city did not have adequate funds in
its budget to provide $3 million in financial support.
"We were trying to figure out how to pay
for the dinner you invited us to," Lawson said.
Tom Praggastis, a member of the YMCA board
of directors, pushed the city to move forward in making a decision. He said the
YMCA is preparing to submit a set of project designs to city planners and hope
to gain city approval for the development by fall.
The YMCA intends to start building the
project in spring 2005, Praggastis said.
Ketchum resident Larry Young questioned
the council’s intentions, noting that the city seems to be "bifurcating" its
2003 resolution to hold a revenue-bond election.
Simon said the 2003 resolution is merely a
"policy statement" of the previous City Council and can be modified.
Keith Perry, president of the Blaine
County Recreation District board of directors, issued a strong statement of
support for the YMCA project.
"This is the best deal you’re going to
get," he said. "If you don’t go forward, nothing will ever happen."
Perry noted that he believes it is not
unfair to ask the city of Ketchum to annually pay $300,000 to support the
project before any other Wood River Valley cities have committed funding. The
Ketchum funds would likely be derived from local option taxes, which are
collected in large part from people residing outside of Ketchum, he said.
Councilman Baird Gourlay continued to
foster the concept of the city taking partial ownership of the YMCA swimming
Gourlay said he believes city voters will
support a funding plan if they are guaranteed a stake in the YMCA project.
The city has not set a date to continue
its discussions on the YMCA issue.