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YMCA counters city's proposed contract

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On Monday night, Gordon Brown, Cassville and Monett YMCA executive director, addressed the Cassville City Council regarding proposed changes to the agreement between the YMCA and the city.

"I appreciate the opportunity to visit with the council, and I also appreciate the YMCA's opportunity to serve the city," said Brown. "I would like to start by giving you a little bit of the background on the city's agreement with the YMCA.

"In 2005, Susie Jacobs approached the YMCA with the possibility of coming into the Cassville community," said Brown. "Then in the summer of 2005, there was the unfortunate drowning at the Cassville Aquatic Center."

Kati Rose, former city administrator, contacted the YMCA regarding an agreement that would authorize the YMCA to administer the city's recreational programs, including gymnastics, outdoor sports programs and the aquatic center.

"She based the original contract amount on the city's loss," said Brown.

Brown reported that when the YMCA entered into the contract with the city insurance requirements were changed to increase the number of lifeguards who must be on duty during open hours. A guard is also needed to administer swim tests, which are now required at the pool.

"Prior to this, the city had five lifeguards on duty each day that the pool was open, and if it was a quiet day, guards were sent home early," said Brown. "We must have six guards on duty even if there are just three kids in the pool."

When the YMCA began operating the city's gymnastics program in January of 2006, managers quickly realized that the facility on Highway 248 was being underutilized, said Brown.

"We began to look at the possibility of raising funding to open the facility at that level," said Brown. "We had a $150,000 goal. This was happily approved by the council and administration. The goal was to not just offer the facility for the gymnastics program but for the community as a whole."

(Photo)
New alderman Democrat Photo/Lindsay Reed Cassville City Clerk Darelyn Cooper administered the oath of office to newly appointed North Ward Alderman Ann Hennigan at the Cassville City Council meeting on Monday night. Hennigan will fill the seat vacated by Bill Hill when he assumed the position of mayor in December of 2011. Former Mayor Tracy Holle resigned from the post last year. She indicated that she plans to move from the city.
Brown reiterated that the YMCA's contract amount was based on Rose's estimate regarding how much the city was spending on recreational programs. It was later determined that the actual loss in revenue was larger than Rose's original estimate, said Brown.

"Our contract amount was $58,300 in 2011," said Brown. "It would cost the city $50,000 more if they were operating these programs at the 2004 levels. Since then, minimum wage has increased, the number of lifeguards required has increased and the number of aquatic center users has increased."

In 2004, around 8,500 daily use admissions were counted at the aquatic center. Last year, the YMCA's count at the pool increased to over 13,000.

"The proposed agreement is to cut funding from $58,300 to $40,000 this year without any reduction in the programs the YMCA offers," said Brown. "There have also been additional responsibilities added.

"The YMCA is already operating at a loss," said Brown. "But we are not here for profit. We are here for the community."

Brown laid out a series of changes that would need to be made to the proposed contract in order for the YMCA to accept the reduction in funding. Those changes included:

* The city pays for all pool chemicals, which are administered by city staff members.

* The city continues to pay for all utilities for the aquatic center and outdoor recreational programs. The YMCA pays for the rent and utilities for the facility on Highway 248.

* The city is responsible for all major equipment repairs and replacement costs at the aquatic center.

* The city would pay $450 for each free swim day and $750 for the Fourth of July if the YMCA is required to offer swim hours for those events.

"The YMCA cannot be held responsible for 11-year-old concessions equipment," said Brown. "That is too high of a liability. One assumption is that we make money off of the concessions, but that is a break-even service. We will operate the aquatic center under the same amount if the city chooses to contract with another vendor for the concessions."

Brown pointed out that the YMCA added free swim days two years ago at the request of the city but received no additional funding for those events. Although the aquatic park is much busier on free swim days, he based the $450 cost on the average open swim day.

The $750 cost for operating the aquatic park on the Fourth of July is due to the fact that the YMCA must pay lifeguards time and a half for working on holidays. He said that the city could request the aquatic center be open on Independence Day instead of Memorial Day when the center is currently open, and not incur additional costs.

"There is a lot of assumption that the cost of operating the pool is covered by the $4 admission fee, which has not changed since 2001," said Brown. "That fee did not cover operating the pool then and that was before the minimum wage increases."

Brown said if the city was willing to increase the admission fee to $5, the YMCA would accept a reduced contract rate of $35,000 per year rather than $40,000.

"The bottom line is that the YMCA enjoys the cooperative work it does with the city," said Brown. "We understand that you must budget during these tight times, and we understand that the tumble and cheer program has seen growth. We are not asking for the subsidy for that program."

The local gymnastics program was converted to a tumble and cheer program after local residents and the school expressed interest in the change. Brown reported that the Cassville YMCA's level one tumbling class has increased five fold.

Alderman Darrell Ledenham asked Brown where he found the numbers used in his presentation, such as the amount the city was losing on recreational programs prior to entering into the agreement with the YMCA.

Brown reported that the information was taken from a report compiled by Rose and information received from Eugene Dilbeck, current city administrator.

"I don't see any problem with what Gordon has asked," said Ledenham. "I think the biggest decision we have to make is whether the aquatic center should be open on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July."

Aldermen Terry Heinz, Jeff Parsons and Ann Hennigan, who was appointed to Mayor Bill Hill's vacant north ward alderman seat, all agreed with Ledenham.

"Personally, I agree with what Gordon has written," said Hill. "We are already paying the utilities. I think the reduction in funding and us paying for the chemicals is fair.

"I personally want the YMCA here," said Hill. "I feel it is a valuable asset to the community, and I appreciate everything you do."

Dilbeck said that the city will save $18,300 on the contract. If the city spends around $8,000 on chemicals, it will still save $10,000 per year.

"As far as the free swim days, I understand the YMCA's situation," said Dilbeck. "They were very generous to add them when I asked. I think we should cover those free swim days.

"At some point we should look at the costs to administer the program, but I don't think this is the time to increase the admission fee," said Dilbeck. "I think this is a very good compromise. I commend Gordon and the YMCA for coming to us with this offer."

Dilbeck said he will make the changes to the agreement and send it to Brown for approval before presenting it to the council for final approval at the next meeting.

In other business, the Cassville City Council:

* Authorized Hill to sign a letter of support for the continued operation of the United States Postal Service's processing center in Springfield.

* Approved an engineering services agreement with Sprenkle and Associates, Inc., of Monett.

* Heard that the city's sales tax was up 0.8 percent in January.

* Approved a resolution in support of the Barry County E-911 sales tax increase.

* Heard that the Missouri Main Street and Cassville Main Street associations will take part in a conference call this week.

* Received an update on website development. Noelle Harmon, deputy city administrator, and Lynette Dilbeck, economic development director, will begin administrative training for the site over the next few weeks.

* Heard department and administrative reports.

* Received an update on new business development leads provided through the Springfield Regional Economic Partnership. Dilbeck reported that one request is for 50 acres of land with access to a rail spur for light manufacturing.

* Presented Tracy Holle, former mayor, with an appreciation award.



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