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YMCA gridlocked

December 16, 1997

YMCA gridlocked

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Landlocked and unable to move, Chambersburg YMCA officials hope the U.S. Army Reserve Center will consider moving to the Letterkenny Opportunity Center so they can take over the 3.7-acre spot behind the building to expand.

But reservists aren't optimistic about moving four miles from their South Sixth Street location since it's a good recruiting area and the complexities of moving are lengthy and costly, said Thomas Cannon, real estate specialist with the 99th Regional Support Command. The 99th operates 186 installations in five states, including Chambersburg's center.

"What's there now has worked exceptionally well," he said.

But acquiring the property, with a 3,700-square-foot maintenance shop and a 15,000-square-foot office building and drill hall, is the only option the YMCA has left if it wants to grow and provide for the community into the next century, specifically with youth programs, said David Matthews Jr., the YMCA's executive director.

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"Right now the job isn't being done for the young teenage population," he said.

The YMCA on East McKinley Street is surrounded by the reserve center, residential homes and property owned by Chambersburg Area School District, including the former J. Schoeneman Inc. building and the high school.

In 1956, the YMCA building was donated to the organization and cannot be sold because of deed restrictions, Matthews said.

Moving would also defeat the purpose of providing more youth programs, since it's centrally located near the high school and middle school, he said.

Nearly 70 elementary students are already bused to the YMCA every day for after-school programs, he said.

"What's most important is we're trying to service all of the kids in this community. The Y is uniquely located for that," Matthews said.

Several expansions, renovations and improvements to the building inside and out have been done over the years to accommodate its 3,100 members, he said.

But more room is needed to meet future goals, including opening a teen center wired for computers, a child care center, a playground, beach volleyball court, multi-purpose sports field and a larger parking lot, Matthews said.

At a Dec. 8 meeting, the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority, a citizens' group managing the development of 1,500 acres of land at Letterkenny Army Depot that's being transferred to Franklin County, verbally supported the YMCA's idea of moving the reserve center there.

But Cannon said moving a reserve center is not that easy because the site would have to go through years of environmental, historical and archaeological studies, among others.

"The restrictions the government puts on municipalities and businesses is much, much less than what they put on themselves," he said.

Even then, the YMCA would have no guarantee of getting the property, since the federal Department of Defense and other federal agencies, including Housing and Urban Development and the state of Pennsylvania, would have first rights to the land, Cannon said.

"Some things we just can't do. Moving would be too cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive," Cannon said.

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