Garner Cleveland Record

Cash for space: town and YMCA mull partnership

Town leaders and YMCA of the Triangle revisited at Tuesday’s work session a previously broached suggestion that the town could ultimately contribute hundreds of thousands to the planned Garner YMCA in exchange for access to the facility.

Currently the town pays the Wake County school system about $35,000 each year to rent gym space in order to facilitate its basketball leagues. While Garner expects to have a new recreation center built by the summer of 2016, its parks and recreation department estimates the town needs five gyms to accommodate its needs.

An initial suggested arrangement involved the town committing the $35,000 per year for 14 years, a $500,000 commitment. Councilman Buck Kennedy, who also sits on the YMCA’s fundraising board, doubted that a deal longer than 10 years would be ideal for either party, but said shifting that money had appeal to both sides.

“There’s an opportunity, and I hope we can take advantage. And if not it won’t be because we didn’t try,” Kennedy said. “If the town can reach an arrangement where it’s beneficial to both, it will happen, if they can’t, it won’t.”

The terms of access to gym space will be a discussion point as talks move forward. Bruce Ham, the executive director for the YMCA of the Triangle, expressed a willingness to work with the town, but he also noted that the YMCA wouldn’t necessarily be able to sacrifice its gyms during all peak hours.

“What we really need to do is kind of land on a concept, and hammer out specifics,” Ham said.

One appeal to the town: the YMCA intends to build a 25-yard, six-to-eight-lane swimming pool. Part of an arrangement could include access for residents to swim lessons or even potentially swimming pool time. Ham promoted the YMCA’s Swim For Life program, which helps people who don’t know how to swim learn at least enough to stave off the panic responsible for most drownings.

“The town does not have a pool, not on the radar for the town to have a pool,” Kennedy said.

Swim lessons, like all of the YMCA’s youth camp, workout and other services, present pricing options to make them affordable for those who don’t have enough money to pay regular membership fees. By raising capital costs through donations, their fees only have to cover operating expenses.

The YMCA has raised more than a third of the $7 million needed to build the facility, and it aims to reach its fundraising goal by August, 2015. That means details for an arrangement wouldn’t have to come soon, and conversations will continue.

“The YMCA is not in a hurry,” Hardin Watkins noted.

Ham pushed the appeal of having a YMCA, suggesting it could have an effect on community-building.

“It’s something that makes people want to come to a community,” Ham said.

Recreation Center

Meanwhile, the town moves forward on its own recreation center. At Tuesday’s work session design firm Clark, Patterson & Lee presented its contract that would have it not only design the recreation center, but also oversee design work for the road work in the area as well.

“I like to yell at one person,” town engineer Tony Chalk cracked in stating his preference to have a contractor running point rather than having various contractors blaming each other for complications.

The council has stated a preference to get three basketball courts into that facility which, given the various elements it wants, could be difficult. Gra Singleton and the town cut a $5,200 item from the contract that would have turned a physical model of the downtown plan into an intricate display piece to show the concept off visually.

“I’m trying to save money wherever we can because we’re going to build three gyms. Every time I see you I’m going to be like this,” Singleton said, holding up three fingers.