Wednesday, October 27, 2004

My turn to respond about the YMCA

Guest opinion by Thomas C. Praggastis

By Thomas C. Praggastis

Thomas C. Praggastis is a member of the Wood River Community YMCA Board of Directors

I have a confession to make. I believed that irrelevant, misleading or unsubstantiated arguments could be seen for what they are. That was before I started working on the YMCA land lease election issue.

Over the past months, I have come to acknowledge the confusion that Jack Corrock, Gene Dallago, Larry Young and a few others have attempted to create on this issue. I have read or listened to them make statements in reckless disregard of fact to convince people not to support the Y. I and many others have had to explain countless times why their statements are flawed.

Jack Corrock believes the Y belongs in Hailey, not Ketchum. This is not an either/or issue. Ketchum, just like Hailey, is entitled to have these facilities. Hailey has such facilities, Ketchum has none. The Rec District?s own master plan states without equivocation that Ketchum needs these facilities. Ketchum owns land, which was purposefully bought for recreational and cultural uses. Mr. Corrock?s argument misses the critical point that both communities are in need of these types of facilities. We must support Ketchum?s acquiring these facilities as much as we must support Hailey?s having and expanding their existing facilities.

Larry Young would have you believe that if the Y facility were built on the property, Ketchum would be virtually prevented from using the property for something else, under current zoning. Mr. Young neglects to tell you the City has the power to change its zoning laws to accommodate any use the City sees fit. The limitation that Mr. Young argues about is illusionary. Mr. Young was a city councilman and mayor. He knows all about zoning code amendments.

Recent opposition ads claim there is no allowance for parking. The City has already committed the property for shared community parking which includes the YMCA. This area will also serve as an important hub for community bus service with room for other uses.

Gene Dallago makes unsubstantiated assertions that the property could be leased for the princely sum of $1.0 million annually or sold for over $15.0 million. Is there a developer out there willing to spend that kind of money every year for a land lease? Mr. Dallago certainly did not back up his assertion with a credible developer and a financial plan showing how it could all work.

Certainly the property could be sold. But that notion flies in the face of the fact that Ketchum can use all the property it owns and should never sell its land. Ketchum voters approved purchasing the land, which had to be condemned from a private owner, specifically to provide needed recreational, cultural and parking uses. Those needs have not been met elsewhere in the City.

The real financial story here is that the City will have the ongoing benefits of a class recreational and cultural center generating millions of dollars of economic gains to the community. These economic impacts are thoroughly documented and substantiated in YMCA studies submitted to the City and open for anyone to review.

I don?t have enough space to address all negative arguments. My goal in writing this is to point out major flaws in the campaign argument against the Y so that you, the voter and you, the rest of our community not voting, seriously question the credibility and motivations behind these arguments. It is easy to spin statements to bolster one?s case; it is much more difficult to make one?s case within the confines of the facts. Find out the facts and like most thoughtful residents you will come to conclude that the Y will be a valuable asset to our community.

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