The Y is an asset to the community

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Over the past several weeks, the Cassville City Council has been re-evaluating its contract with the local YMCA in an attempt to cut costs while still maintaining support for the organization that provides recreational opportunities for area citizens and also operates the city's Aquatic Center. I won't go into the details of those discussions (you can read our news account of the meeting for that), but I will tell you that the city and the Y came to a mutual agreement at Monday night's city council meeting that will be beneficial to all. The council, which has every right to look closely at its contract with the Y, proposed a revised contract and then allowed YMCA officials to present information and make a counter proposal. Aldermen and new Mayor Bill Hill listened to the YMCA's position, asked good questions and ultimately arrived at a compromise that keeps the Y's services intact and allows the city a little fiscal breathing room.

The City of Cassville partnered with the YMCA back in 2005 and was instrumental in helping get the program started locally. At the time, the Y contracted with the city to take over youth sports programming, operation of the Aquatic Center and operation of the Gymnastics Center at a cost of $58,300, which represented the money the city was losing to run all those programs with its own staff. That contract has been in place for the past six years, and as the local YMCA continues to gain membership and grow stronger, it makes sense that the city's financial support would be lowered accordingly.

As Mayor Hill stated at Monday night's meeting, the YMCA is an asset to the community. I still remember the days when we would have to travel to Monett and Aurora to play soccer because Cassville didn't have its own program. Now, the YMCA provides a host of recreational opportunities for our local youth, including soccer, flag football, tumbling, cheerleading and summer camp. On Monday, the local Y set a new record for attendance. At the time the city council was meeting, the rec center was filled with over 130 people of all ages - kids were taking tumbling lessons, others were playing games, adults were working out on the exercise equipment and there was a Zumba class underway. The Y has become a hub of activity, offering area residents a place to gather and get healthy and giving youth a safe place to hang out.

When it comes to quality of life, the YMCA and all its programs add greatly to what Cassville can offer its citizens. People who are looking to relocate often ask about available workout facilities and recreational opportunities. Having a strong YMCA program in Cassville is an essential part of the city's economic development strategy. Recreation is one of those factors, along with quality of schools, affordable housing and availability of healthcare, that influences a person's or an industry's decision to relocate to a new community.

In addition to providing activities for local citizens, the Cassville Y is a job creator. The local Y supports two full-time staff members plus 24 part-time positions. In the summer, an additional 28 young people are hired to work as lifeguards.

The community of Cassville is grateful that city officials realize the worth of the Y and are willing to continue supporting its growth and development. For those of you who have never visited the Y or participated in any of its programs, I encourage you to drop by the facility on Highway 248 (next to Able 2) and talk to the staff about the benefits of membership. The new year is a perfect time to join and get active. ~ Lisa Schlichtman