Village leaders discuss YMCA funding

By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

A reduction in funding prompted the village of Urbancrest council to hold a special meeting to discuss what could be done to mitigate the damage to programming at the Vaughn E. Hairston Community Center YMCA.

For over an hour, council recently spoke with Stephen Ives, the president and CEO for the YMCA of Central Ohio, to see if they could come up with a solution to stop the loss of recreational programming at the popular center.

Though no permanent solution was agreed upon at the conclusion of the meeting, a temporary solution that has the village making a larger financial contribution could be in the works.

The issue relating to the community center arose last month when Ives informed council that the United Way had reduced their allocation of funds by as much as $550,000 for the year.
Ives said the significant loss in funding would cause the organization to restructure programming at several YMCA locations, including the one in Urbancrest.

According to Ives, the Hairston Community Center would continue TANF (or Temporary Assistant to Needy Families) funded programs such as Head Start and After School care as well as the Positive Alternative Learning for Students (PALS) program.

The remainder of the offered programs, he said, would likely see major cuts.

After the announcement, council expressed concern and frustration by the news. Those feelings spilled over at the special meeting.

During that meeting, councilwoman Veronica Shepherd questioned why the community center has had so many financial issues throughout the years.

“You’re not paying any rent,” she said, referring to the fact that the village owns the building and leases the space to the YMCA at no cost.

She also said that she does not believe they have adequately involved their community in the programs.

“You have no programming for our children,” Shepherd said. “All you do is kick them out when they’re there. And now you stand before us and want us to give and give and give again.”

Ives addressed both of the issues Shepherd raised.

He said while it is true that they pay no rent for the building, they have covered the cost of utilities and some repair work. He added that the location offers many programs for any child and that they only ask people to leave when they have been fighting or swearing.

Councilwoman Deborah Larkins-Jackson also said she was frustrated by the continued financial struggles of the center, but added that it is vitally important that the community has a recreation center.

“I want the Y to stay open,” she said.

One solution to keeping the community center largely as is would be for the village to cover the cost of utilities for the building. According to Ives, they pay approximately $70,000 per year in utilities.

Councilman Kenneth Skeaton asked Ives what the day-to-day operation would look like at the community center if the village picked up the cost for utilities.

Ives said he did not have any actual figures, but estimated that there would still be minor cuts, mostly with the hours of operation.

Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. asked if Ives would be willing to come up with a business model for them to look at as they ponder covering the cost of utilities. Ives said he would be willing and that he could have that model in the near future.

Barnes said if the village were to cover the cost of the utilities, there would have to be greater communication between the two entities.

“There are a lot of things that have been lost between us over the years,” he said.

He added that they need to work on their partnership to better the lives of those in the community.

“We believe in our community,” Barnes said. “You believe in the Y. And now we need to be at the point where we believe in each other.”

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