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Officials say misunderstanding contributed to YMCA move

February 25, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

by Joe Crocetta / staff photographer

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YMCAOfficials say misunderstanding contributed to YMCA move

Officials said Tuesday a lapse in communication contributed to a decision by YMCA officials to move most or all of the organization's services out of the city.

City and YMCA officials, during a Tuesday work session, unsuccessfully tried to figure out who was to blame for the lapse. Councilman Lewis C. Metzner suggested that placing blame was not as important as learning from the mistake and moving on.

YMCA officials on Feb. 4 announced plans to move most of its athletic and community-service programs from 149 N. Potomac St. to Eastern Boulevard across from the Douglas A. Fiery Funeral Home.

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The YMCA began looking at sites other than the city-owned Fairgrounds after a state official said in January 1997 that the YMCA couldn't relocate there because it was a membership organization, officials said.

It's true the YMCA couldn't have exclusive use of fields or construct a building on the land bought with state Program Open Space funds, but other options are available, said City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman.

The YMCA could construct a building at the neighboring Reed Park or build at the Fairgrounds if the city swapped the acreage with land elsewhere, he said.

Metzner said he hopes that even if the YMCA does not move to the city-owned fairgrounds, it will help manage the property for the city.

YMCA officials are trying to negotiate a contract for the Eastern Boulevard site and have a moral obligation to build there, said James G. Pierne, YMCA board chairman.

Pierne said the YMCA needs a family-style campus if it is to have a viable future.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said she didn't understand why YMCA officials would ask the community to donate $600,000 to buy 33 acres on Eastern Boulevard when the city would give the group land at the Fairgrounds.

YMCA board member Bert Iseminger said the Fairgrounds doesn't have the accessibility and visibility of Eastern Boulevard.

YMCA officials said 79 percent of their memberships, or almost 1,600 families or individuals, live three miles or more from the downtown site, and most live north or east of the downtown site, they said Monday.

Pierne said he didn't know how much funding the YMCA would ask the city to contribute toward the project, but that the city's involvement may be focused more on the downtown building than the new site.

"It is not the intent of the Y to leave it as an eyesore and an empty building downtown," Pierne said.

Building a $6.5 million facility and finding alternative uses for the existing building is expected to take two to five years, YMCA officials said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the city's planning director and an elected official will join the YMCA's task force to determine how to use the downtown building.

The building could have several uses, YMCA officials said Monday.

The Washington County Health System could expand the Potomac Street Community Health Center, and the YMCA could continue to offer services such as child care, YMCA officials said.

The YMCA is committed to keeping the men's residence facility downtown, Pierne said.

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