By Dedra Cordle
When village of Urbancrest Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. was told that the YMCA of Central Ohio would cease recreational programming at the Vaughn E. Hairston location due to financial hardship caused by prolonged COVID-19 restrictions, he questioned whether the association could unilaterally make that decision without being in breach of a management agreement reached between the parties in 2018.
According to Barnes, there is a clause in the management agreement under the ‘term and termination’ section that states a written notice of intention to terminate the contract would need to be delivered to either party should that decision be made.
He stated his belief earlier this month that the decision to not offer recreational programming for the members at the center amounted to a termination of the contract without the written notification.
“We have not received anything (in writing) at this time,” he said during an interview on July 2. “So, as far as I am concerned, their decision to not provide programming puts them into breach of contract because they are not fulfilling their end of the bargain.”
On July 9, however, that letter of intention to terminate the contract was delivered.
At its meeting on the following Tuesday, village law director Rodd Lawrence notified the administration and the council that his office received correspondence from the association submitting its termination of the management agreement.
This action means that the YMCA of Central Ohio will no longer manage educational or recreational programming at the Vaughn E. Hairston location, but that does not mean it could not have a presence there in the future.
When The Columbus Messenger spoke with Tony Collins, the president and CEO of the YMCA of Central Ohio earlier this month regarding the site’s operational status, he said the association would like to continue hosting youth development programs at the facility such as after-school care, Head Start, and Positive Alternative Learning for Students (PALS).
He said due to budgetary issues, the association could no longer operate recreational (or health and wellness) programming at this location as they could not afford to cover its annual cost of $150,000.
With this announcement came a question posed by members of the council: What will future operations at the Vaughn E. Hairston look like?
According to both parties, there are a number of ways that the future use of this location could be shaped.
As per Collins’ suggestion, the village or a donor could cover the cost of programming, or the association could share the facility with the village should they find another vendor to provide health and wellness programs. (In this scenario, the YMCA would run educational programming on certain days or at certain hours, while the village or a third party could run recreational programming on certain days or at certain hours.)
Several members on the council said they would not be averse to finding another party to run the programming side as it has been done before. The YMCA has been managing programs at this location since 1998.
Councilwoman Shawn Moore said the village should invest funds into beautifying the complex. She said the last thing she wants is to see this location fall into disrepair.
“This building is an asset to our village and to our community,” she said. “I don’t want to see it go down.”
Barnes said the village will not let this facility go to the wayside.
He said that with this termination notification by the YMCA, it frees up the members on the YMCA advisory committee to move forward with negotiations on the future of the Vaughn E. Hairston building.
He said the committee will continue to “sit down” with YMCA representatives and discuss what alternative options there are on the table.
“You cannot move forward until you close the door on what you have,” he said.
He added that during this phase of negotiations, there will be items that he and the committee cannot openly discuss.
Moore said she understands that aspect of the negotiation process but wants the council to be kept in the loop.
“I would like for us to be involved in this discussion because we have been totally closed out of the process (so far),” she said.
Councilman Steven Larkins serves on the advisory committee along with councilwoman Nikky Ziglar-Zimmerman and two other village representatives. Ziglar-Zimmerman was not in attendance during the July 13 meeting but Larkins said he wanted to assure the rest of the council that they were not “keeping secrets.”
“We are not trying to hide anything,” he said. “We’re just trying to keep things above board.”
He asked that the council have trust in the process, and trust in the committee to “get this done right.”