Monday, July 09, 2007

New YMCA in trouble, new Boys & Girls Club likely: Session invites public input but allows none


Charlottesville, Va.- After being advertised on the radio as an opportunity for public input, the joint work session of the 5-member City Council, Director of Parks and Recreation, and representatives of the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club discussed from 5 to 7:30 p.m. their plans for new facilities. The event occurred at the National Guard Armory built 1931, now the Herman Key Recreation center.

One of the speakers reminded the group that many citizens were here to express their view. The crowd of about 80 or so dwindled to half when the meeting was concluded. That’s when the remaining crowd , waiting to submit their comments into the public record, learned that no public comment would be allowed.

Mayor David Brown, up for reelection on Nov. 6, said there will be a public hearing on this subject at a future Council meeting in City Hall Council Chambers.

Neither the YMCA nor the Boys & Girls Club has any history in Charlottesville. This was the false impression given when no one on the panel mentioned any bit of historical perspective. Both nonprofit organizations had flyers available. Nowhere was there any mention of something as simple as when the organization was established.

Even though nobody mentioned any of the history, that history influenced the outcome of this meeting. It helped the Boys and Girls Club and hurt the YMCA.

Late in the meeting, lame duck Councilor Kendra Hamilton said the Boys and Girls Club has proven successful, implying that the Y would be a greater risk.

Sure enough, the YMCA once had a fitness facility located on Park Street just north of the US-250 Bypass, current site of MACAA (Monticello Area Community Action Agency) founded by Drewary Brown.

According to one of the Y reps I spoke to briefly, the facility closed sometime in the 1980s. I pointed out to him Hamilton’s “proven success” statement to show that history had indeed influenced tonight’s discussion.

The YMCA wants to build a new (second? third?) $14 million fitness facility at Charlottesville High School in the baseball field adjacent Melbourne Road and across the railroad from McIntire Park. The Y would provide $10 million from charitable contributions. Albemarle County has already approved $2 million and the Y is asking the City for $2 million. The 75,000 square-foot facility would have a pool with 20 lanes for lap swim and cost roughly $200 per square foot.

The Y also wants to the City to lease at a “nominal fee” between 4 and 8 acres of what lame duck Councilor Kevin Lynch referred to as parkland. The land is assessed at $60,000, not $60,000 per acre, which was clarified late in the meeting. Lynch did not disclose the date of acquisition or previous owner of the land.

Unlike the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA promised never to come back before Council asking for more money. The contribution to the Y would be a one-time only subsidy.

The Boys and Girls Club could break ground as early as fall 2008 adjacent or in place of the Smith Pool at Buford Middle School on Cherry Avenue.

The Council as a whole, led by Hamilton, seemed hostile toward suburban residents who use the facilities. Everyone, including the audience, seemed shocked that 90+ percent of those who swim at Smith Pool do not live in the city. Nobody pointed out they pay a higher user fee as well as “revenue sharing” of more than $10 million a year. Apparently the sharing goes only one way.

Hamilton said she believes the parks are already serving the desired populations, such as an increased presence at public housing sites. In the following couple of sentences, after realizing how bad that sounded, she rephrased it as “particular” populations we “particularly” want to serve. Then she said everybody’s welcome at city parks.

When she leaves office at the end of this year, Hamilton will continue as the most visible, local proponent of urban renewal as she serves as chairman of the 7-member board of directors which oversees the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority (established 1954).

I arrived 15 minutes late and missed the names of the speakers.

Director of Parks and Rec. Mike Svetz first proposed on Aug. 7, 2006 the false choice between building a new mega fitness center and selling off the neighborhood parks (“School board study: only wards can guarantee diversity”. Aug.8, 2007). Today Council tried to convince the public that they are fully committed to the neighborhood parks.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about integrate the pools for the Y (et. al.) with the proposed $16M new pools for Charlottesville.

OR just drop the pool idea, is providing swimming a function of government anyway? You can buy swimming at ACAC or if you can't afford that, oh well, you'll probably survive.

10/21/2007 5:16 PM  

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